HELLO I MUST BE GOING
Directed by: Todd Louiso
Written by: Sarah Koskoff
Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubinstein, Julie White
Ask most divorcées and they’ll tell you divorce is not easy. For some it’s a freeing experience, but for most it’s an exhausting disaster. Actor-turned-director Todd Louiso (the child care technician from JERRY MAGUIRE) and writer Sarah Koskoff’s HELLO I MUST BE GOING is the honest and humorous journey of one such divorcee whose perfect life plan has come to a jarring halt. Rendered emotionally numb and physically weak, she’s forced to rediscover the magic of living through the catalyst of a youthful romance. While this is a subtle and sweet film with an amazing performance or two, the rest of the story is a bit of a slog.
Thirtysomething Amy Minsky (WIN WIN’s Melanie Lynskey) is a recent divorcée who has sought refuge in the suburban Connecticut home of her parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein). While her dad is supportive in that “hey there, kiddo” kind of way, her mom is – hilariously so – less than encouraging, talking behind her back and questioning her decision to divorce. Left depressed and penniless, Amy hasn’t left the house in three months and struggles to find joy in anything. However, all of this changes when her parents throw a fancy dinner party for work and she’s introduced to 19-year-old Jeremy (GIRLS’ Christopher Abbott). The two click immediately and launch into a rapid romance. He too has had unreasonable expectations bestowed on him by his parents, who think he’s gay and that he loves acting. As he says, “sometimes it’s easier to be what others want you to be and not fight it.” As their romance blossoms, so does Amy’s lust for life and sense of purpose.
Bolstered by Koskoff’s unwavering script and Louisa’s direction, Lynskey (who, let’s face is, it is the best part of any ensemble) gives a powerful, compelling performance. No one can play understated better than her. She’s nothing short of brilliant. Perhaps she learned this from her on-screen mother Danner, who gives a strong but subtle portrayal of a high-strung, former empty nester. Another positive is that the details of Amy’s divorce aren’t all lumped together in a expository manner. They’re ingeniously layered throughout the film, unfolding at the exact right moment. It feels organic and truthful.
Here’s my problem: We never quite understand why Amy feels she can’t date this guy. She says dating Jeremy would jeopardize her dad’s retirement plans, but why? Jeremy’s parents seem pretty progressive – if they accept him as a gay, starving artist, why wouldn’t they accept the age difference? It feels like a convenient script device so Amy can regress into teenage behavior like keeping secrets, sneaking out at night, and smoking pot. Amy’s arc is also predictable. While I love the idea of a cinematic sub-genre of women caught in post-breakup tailspins, many of the beats feel familiar and a tad generic. Amy’s “bottoming out” should be filled with ranch dressing and even worse clothing (as perfectly executed in CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER).
In many ways, HELLO I MUST BE GOING is the hipster step-sister of LOLA VERSUS (especially the bad date scenario played for laughs). There are some clever ideas and noteworthy performances, but it never quite achieves cathartic healing.
HELLO I MUST BE GOING opens theatrically on September 7.