Competition Narrative Features
The Happy Poet
DIRECTED BY PAUL GORDON
USA, 2010, 85 MIN
Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature
So sweet you can’t help rooting for him, Bill the poet (Paul Gordon, who wrote, edited, directed, produced, and stars) might seem like a milquetoast dude, but he somehow manages to do what everyone yearns to do: forge his own way despite all adversity. Deeply in debt and without a job, Bill hits on the unlikely path of turning a hot-dog cart — and the entire lunch culture of the city of Austin — into a health-conscious alternative. He attracts unlikely supporters — Jonny Mars as a shifty delivery guy, Chris Doubek as the encourager-in-chief, and Liz Fisher as a pretty poetry fan who catches Bill’s eye — and slowly, a fairy tale really does unfold in quietly hilarious fashion. A cast of thousands — OK, dozens — stumbles upon the stand, which eventually does very nicely for reasons its owner little suspects. But even that betrayal can’t get Bill down for long in this quirky, gentle, funny film that’s so underplayed that, if it were French, it would get an Oscar. Idealism fully realized—with all its pitfalls!