By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
Can a 35-year-old divorcée find happiness with a 19-year-old actor? While 16-year age gaps matter less and less in these Demi/Ashton days, the fact that these two characters are both living at home with their respective parents throws some decided kinks into this particular love knot.
Hello I Must Be Going represents onetime actor Todd Louiso’s third time directing a feature. While he made a splash at 2002’s Sundance with Love Liza, it’s his comedic portrayal of the timid record store clerk in 2000’s High Fidelity that initially put him on the map. Here, he and screenwriter Sarah Koskoff center the film around a woman (Melanie Lynskey’s Amy) who’s boomeranged back to Westport, Connecticut after her crumbled marriage has left her in a state of foundering identity. Dressed in shabby T-shirts and shorts, Amy rattles around her family’s upscale home while her mother (Blythe Danner’s Ruth) is forever nagging at her to get up, get dressed and snap out of it. When Ruth and Amy’s dad (John Rubinstein) throw a dinner party to impress potential clients, accompanied by their 19-year-old actor son (Christopher Abbott’s Jeremy), it’s Amy who scores. Literally. Though Amy initially tries to fend off his eager advances, Jeremy simply won’t take no for an answer.
The inherent comedy of this mismatched duo sneaking sex on the sly works well, as they dismantle the gated security system, throw rocks at each other’s windows and blurt out lame excuses about late-night runs to the drug store. They grab feverish moments in such juvenile locations as cramped back seats of cars and Jeremy’s boyhood bedroom.
But the movie dampens when it tries to delve into deeper waters. When we finally meet the ex-husband who Amy’s been languishing over (Dan Futterman’s David), he’s so stereotypically self-involved — playing a high-power suit who can’t separate himself from his smartphone — that our assessment of Amy turns sour. If this man was her top choice, then why does she need to fall down on a rocky beach, crying “Where is bottom?” Looks like she not only found it, but stayed married to it for years. And by the third act, the revelatory life lessons that Amy learns are no more profound than those offered in the opening chapter of any one-size-fits-all self-help book.
That said, Lynskey certainly exhibits a lovely vulnerability — but in this leading role, the filmmakers neglected to write a bigger, deeper character that could showcase her considerable talents. We’ve had earlier opportunities to glean Lynskey’s impressive range: her award-winning debut as the troubled teen in Heavenly Creatures; the sorrowful wife unable to conceive, dancing out her grief on a stripper’s pole in Away We Go; her nearly-abandoned frightened bride in Up in the Air; and the toxic, manipulative mom in last year’s Win Win. In this movie, as the character of Amy has squandered her potential, so, too, have the filmmakers.
Playing the faux-gay son, Abbott brings a piercing comic intensity that gives the film a substantial boost. Danner and Rubinstein are solid, and White is a delicious addition as a therapist working overtime to be considered the coolest, hippest analyst in town. But at the end of this hello/goodbye, we’d have to say that though it’s a sweet visit … it’s certainly not as memorable as we’d hoped.
Rating on a scale of 5 boomeranging adults: 2.5
Directed by: Todd Louiso
Written by: Sarah Koskoff
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubinstein, Julie White, Dan Futterman
Running Time: 95 minutes