CIFF Capsule review – The Happy Poet

Sept. 24 9:15 p.m and Sept. 26 2:30 p.m. Eau Claire

In The Happy Poet — a truthfully disarming and funny film — writer-director Paul Gordon stars as Bill the titular poet whose dry delivery somewhat overshadows his good intentions. The plot is a simple one: The poet with a master’s degree in creative writing and plenty of debt has a short-term dream to sell organic vegetarian snacks out of a converted hot dog cart in a park. His friend Donnie who serves as his PR man does deliveries and deals pot to boost sales.

Along the way Bill befriends a forty-something hackie sack player who accepts free food in exchange for positive reinforcement and his associates eventually grow to include the poet’s love interest and a few dedicated customers. Will they become wildly successful? Or even moderately successful? You’d be surprised.

The realism of the film is its strongest asset with clever writing that is suitably not too crisp. Characters pause dialogue overlaps and nothing is said at just the right time with its cast bringing spot-on deadpan delivery. While plenty happens in the film — including a bowling trip and a moral conflict about whether to sell hot dogs — much of the film’s nuance could get lost if you’re expecting monumental or clichéd conflicts. At its most disarming The Happy Poet rewards it audiences for accepting a comedy lacking in characters with overdone neuroses.