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Hello I Must Be Going

November 4, 2012
Hello I Must Be Going

There are many ways to spoil a promising film, but one that particularly bugs me is when a director doesn’t trust that the audience will know how they’re supposed to react.  Unfortunately, that’s the case for Todd Louiso and Hello I Must Be Going.  The script from his wife, Sarah Koskoff, is a bit trite and obvious, but it’s the heavy-handed, over-earnest execution that makes too much of cheap humor, makes too little of emotional nuance, and makes it too bad that even good performances by Melanie Lynskey and Blythe Danner can’t save it.

Amy Minsky (Lynskey) has been blindsided by her divorce, and has spent the last three months living with her parents Ruth (Danner) and Stan (John Rubenstein).  She’s depressed, obviously, but her emotionally distant mother can’t be bothered and her father doesn’t really know how to bond with her since they used to watch old Marx Brothers movies all night when she was a kid; whence the title.

She starts to get her groove back, though, when her parents have a dinner party for one of her father’s prospective clients.  Tailing along is their 19-year-old son, Jeremy (Christopher Abbott), a former children’s tv actor who has moved on to broadway.  His mother (Julie White) is as uncomfortably effusive with her praise for her son as Amy’s mother is with her criticism of her daughter.  So naturally Amy and Jeremy fall in love.

Of course, Amy has misgivings about involving herself with a much younger man, but she starts sneaking out to see him, and from here the farce plays out pretty much as you might expect.  The gags are obvious and more about Amy’s discomfort than anything actually funny.  You can almost hear a muted trumpet playing its stinger after each embarrassing moment.

More obvious than the gags, though, is the directing, which first shows itself clearly in the uncomfortable dinner scene.  Many lines can either be read on two levels, or somehow relate to Amy’s divorce and lack of progress in life.  And every one is punctuated with a cut to some character pointedly glancing at her — Louiso’s way of screaming, “hey, audience, this woman is taking these comments hard and could break down at any second!”.  If we can’t figure that out on our own there are bigger problems with the script and the cast.

And the cast is not untalented.  Lynskey communicates a nervous, self-conscious hesitance in her shifting facial expressions as much as in anything she actually says.  And Danner’s big scene — though more than a little overwrought and melodramatic — reminds us how good she can be.  If only it felt like a natural outgrowth of her character to that point instead of a tacked-on explanation of her preceding behavior.  And if only it felt like there was actually anything between Amy and Jeremy.

As a whole, the film has a cute, if not particularly inventive, premise, and it can be sweet from time to time.  But that’s not really enough to carry the film beyond a mediocre execution of an indie movie’s version of lowbrow comedy.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: pass.

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