The Idealist and the Hot Dog Cart in The Happy Poet


Fresh from a showing in Venice, the Austin-bred SXSW pet The Happy Poet is returning to its native shores a little worldlier for the wear. For Paul Gordon, the writer, director, and star of this wry, ambivalent take on wish-fulfilling romantic comedies, a flashy international premiere is a fitting development for a sweet, stealthy film about creating meaning in your life (and your work) in a relentlessly mercenary world. As Bill, a soporific MFA washout who reinvents himself as the proprietor of an all-organic, vegetarian food cart, Gordon explores the tenability of pushing handmade goods in a pre-fab world. An introvert forced into huckster mode, Bill sets up shop in a sun-kissed stretch of Austin park and refuses to give the people what they want: hot dogs. A few supporters (including Jonny Mars as a wily opportunist, Chris Doubek as a local mooch, and Liz Fisher as a would-be love interest) hang around Bill and his cart, encouraging the recovering artist to begin with a brand. Off-handed and yet quite artfully observed, The Happy Poet‘s winsome deadpan offsets its skewering of class and sustainability issues, right through to a tricky ending that, like Bill himself, may not be what it seems.