The Happy Poet

| June 23, 2013

The Happy Poet is an all-organic, mostly vegetarian comedy about Bill, a struggling poet who pours his heart, soul, and last few dollars into starting a healthy food stand, surprising friends and customers with his dry wit and offbeat passion.

Motivated by help from a rag-tag group of supporters and a budding romance with a poetry-loving customer, Bill strives to make a difference in the world, until surprising complications jeopardize his new friendships and threaten Bill’s dreams for a hot dog-free future.

The Happy poet cleverly re-works the classic American film story of the underdog struggling against the system, adding a dose of deadpan humor and a fresh take on a young generation’s interest in the intersection of a social conscience and the food we eat

I really had to pay attention to the latest movie by Paul Gordon and David Hartstein, because the lead character Bill is so laid back and nonchalant, but this is what makes the movie a good comedy—the dry humor. If only the entire universe could eat healthier and yearn for hummus and veggie sticks, the world would be a much better place. In The Happy Poet, Bill buys a retired hot dog cart and turns it into a health food fest on wheels, as he sells sandwiches, eggless egg salad, snacks and water to lunch time workers and park visitors. He is so committed to this endeavor, but he isn’t making much money in the process. In the beginning he goes to the bank for a start-up loan, but is only able to secure $750. He buys the cart, but the original owner seems to be irritated and insulted that Bill isn’t going to actually sell hot dogs.

As he starts his business, he comes into contact with a mixed bag of sorts, a seeming drifter who manages to get food for free and a biker who helps The Happy Poet out by delivering boxed lunches to regular customers, as he also sells weed on the side. He also makes acquaintance with a female customer whom he likes. She, along with the other two strangers, helps him devise the name of the business, The Happy Poet. They came about the name, because Bill studied creative writing in college and specialized in poetry, and he appeared to be happy, even though a casual observer wouldn’t gather that much from him.

He runs into trouble, however, when he keeps giving food away and with customers’ demands for a hot dog, any kind of hot dog. To keep his business running, he even has to call his mother for financial assistance, after his credit card is denied at the store. He would shop daily for the fresh ingredients and make yummy sandwiches that his clients loved. The Happy Poet is about a man who has a quest to expose the public to healthy eating at any costs. But this doesn’t make up his life, as he seems to be introverted and removed and isn’t able to follow through on his personal relationship. In the end, however, he triumphs and not only abandons the food cart but opens up a food truck and standalone restaurant, as well.

The Happy Poet is a testament that no matter how quiet and unassuming you may be, if you have a dream, keep quietly letting it grow deep inside of you. And, sure enough, one day that dream will blossom into something big and the world—well maybe not literally—will be screaming your name. Gordon is great as the main character. He just went along and diligently hawked his goods, growing more excited about the venture, with each sandwich or bag of veggie chips that he sold. I enjoyed the film, sort of in that slow, lazy pace in which it was delivered.

Paul Gordon stars as Bill; Jonny Mars as Donnie; Chris Doubek as Curtis and Liz Fisher as Agnes.

The Happy Poet was an SXSW favorite and has received other distinguished honors. It is available on DVD and digital platforms June 25 from Cinema Libre Studio.

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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