Hello I Must Be Going Dir. Todd Louiso

[Oscilloscope; 2012]

Styles: drama, suburban malaise
Others: Love Liza, The Marc Pease Experience, Heavenly Creatures

This film is mainly a vehicle that affords Melanie Lynskey the opportunity to totally crush it in the role of Amy Minsky, a recently divorced woman taking refuge in the exurban Connecticut residence of her well-to-do, thoroughly depressing parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein). Finding herself in the somewhat sterile though stable home of her emotionally distant mother and overly indulgent father, it’s immediately apparent that Amy is taking a break from pretty much everything she cares about. Amy’s pain, suburban malaise, and eventual sense of something close to joy are made palpable through Lynskey’s masterful performance, a performance upsettingly marred by a story that far too often veers into a paint-by-numbers approach to affirmation and empowerment.

Written by the actress who played that girl who kept waking up in the woods in the pilot episode of The X Files (Sarah Koskoff), Hello I Must Be Going presents Amy as a listless, cast-aside woman, unable to deal with the crappy reality that her husband of some years threw her over for no justifiable reason. Resigning herself to what appears to be an undefined period of sleeping in, wearing shapeless clothing, watching Marx Brothers movies (hence the title), and shutting herself off from her life back in New York, Amy’s stayed with her folks for long enough that her mother starts to question whether or not she’s merely “staying” with them anymore. Of course, in keeping with the by now well-established depression of her character, this has a paralyzing effect on Amy. The question calls to mind the outside world, which kind of sucks for her right now. Her mind retreats inward, homing in on any solace it can find, which naturally enough exists in the home of her parents. And which just as naturally only reminds her of her external obligations, which are too much for her these days. This is all portrayed with an uncanny economy on the Lynskey’s part, by the way. Amy’s fallen into a feedback loop of shame, regret, laziness, and self-pity, which I’m convinced could have yielded some pretty incredible results if the filmmakers had chosen to allow Lynskey to play through it a bit more before introducing a romantic counterpart for her.

At a dinner party for some of her father’s clients, Amy runs into a much younger man. The 19-year-old Jeremy (played exceptionally well by Girls’ Christopher Abbott), for whatever reason, takes a shine to Amy, and so begins a well-played though not well-conceived second act that will irk many folks interested in the uncomfortable and raw character that was set-up in the first. Amy’s relationship with Jeremy seems forced, a romcom convention sorely out of place in the larger narrative we’ve been trying to care about up to this point. Thankfully, the actual dialogue between these two characters is exceedingly well written, and performed at such a high level that you almost forget how much you’re straining to suspend what disbelief you have left to stomach the story that’s developing through these sequences.

What makes the film work (when it does work) are the private, languid interactions between Amy and Jeremy. When Koskoff’s script and Louiso’s direction allow the two of them tender and real moments of vulnerability, the story rings just about as true as any I’ve seen. Melanie Lynskey’s performance in this film is so damn good, and Louiso’s naturalistic, restrained directorial approach recalls some of the sensibilities that made Love Liza work as well as it did. But unfortunately, neither of these two artists is capable of shuffling off the constraints of the gratingly affirming source material they’re given.

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