Directed by: Todd Louiso.
Written by: Sarah Koskoff.
Starring: Melanie Lynskey (Amy), Blythe Danner (Ruth Minsky), John Rubinstein (Stan Minsky), Julie White (Gwen), Christopher Abbott (Jeremy).
I love Melanie Lynskey. Ever since I saw Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994), her debut film, I’ve thought there is something special about her. Her co-star in that film, also making their film debut, was of course Kate Winslet who has gone onto become the most acclaimed and award actress of her generation. While Lynsky’s career has not taken off in the same way, she has become one of the great character actresses working today – adding interesting performances on the margins of films. The type of performances that don’t win awards, but are key to a movies success. Think of her roles in films like Win Win, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Shattered Glass, Flags of Our Fathers, Away We Go, Up in the Air, The Informant, Leaves of Grass or Seeking a Friend at the End of the World and you have an eclectic mix of performances. So I was looking forward to seeing Lynsky take on a lead role again for the first time in years. And while Lynsky is wonderful in Hello, I Must Be Going, the movie itself is rather dull and predictable.
Lynskey stars as Amy, a woman in her early 30s who has essentially given up having a career of her own in order to support her husband’s. And now that he has left her, she is left humiliated and alone with no kids and no marketable skills – and living at home with her parents. Her dad Stan (John Rubinstein) is loving and supportive, but her mother Ruth (Blythe Danner) blames her for what what wrong in her life. Now Stan needs to close a big business deal to save his business and allow him to retire. As part of this deal, they invite Gwen (Julie White) and her 19 year old son Jeremy (Christopher Abbott) over for dinner. Gwen is married to the man they have to convince to sign the deal. Everything must be perfect. And so, of course, Amy and Jeremy start sleeping with each other.
You can probably guess what is going to happen in Hello, I Must Be Going, and you’d most likely be right. Amy, who has been devastated and had her confidence shattered by her divorce will gradually learn what love can really be like, and this will help her come out of her shell, and get on with her life. Lynskey is wonderful at showing this gradual progression throughout the movie. She makes Amy far more sympathetic than she must have been on the page – since when you stop to think about what she does, she is more than a little bit of a whiner. But because she is embodied by the ever lovable Lynskey, we root for her anyway.
Lynskey is not the problem with Hello, I Must Be Going. Everything else is. Christopher Abbott is quite good as Jeremy – or at least as good as the movie allows him to be. I never understood what exactly draws him to Amy in the first place – and what keeps him coming back for more. While Amy is a well-drawn character, Jeremy remains an enigma – but not a fascinating one. Worse yet is the ham-fisted plot of the business deal that brings them together, and especially Danner’s ever annoying character, who is finally (and not so-shockingly) revealed to be just as insecure as her daughter.
The film was directed by Todd Louiso, a character actor himself (probably still best known for playing the shy record store guy in High Fidelity), who has directed at least one better film than this – 2002’s Love Liza, with a terrific performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman (I missed Louiso’s sophomore effort 2009’s The Marc Pease Experience). He shows a sensitive eye behind the camera, but really cannot overcome the holes in the screenplay. Hello, I Must Be Going contains an excellent performance by Lynskey – and not a whole hell of a lot else.