Film Review: Hello, I Must Be Going

An affectless approach muffles any interest one might have in this failed rom-com.
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In gleaming, white-bread Westport, Connecticut, recent divorcée Amy (Melanie Lynskey) has moved back in with Mom and Dad (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein), while trying to figure out her life. Hers is a listless existence in front of the TV, exasperating to her parents, until one night, at a dinner party, she encounters aspiring actor Jeremy (Christopher Abbott) and sparks fly, which would be fine except he’s only 19 years old.

That’s about it, plot-wise, for Todd Louiso’s quirky, very little indie rom-com, Hello, I Must Be Going. Scripted by Sarah Koskoff, there’s nothing wrong with its basic May-December premise, which has fueled many a farce for aeons, but the studied, affectless approach consistently kills any interest. Deadpan humor can be a joy in film with the right kind of comic payoff, but here, scene after scene only trails off into a nothingness which we must assume is the punch line. One can sense that Louiso and Koskoff are going for a winsome, post-Graduate/Annie Hall kind of approach, with their too-cold observation of upmarket suburbia and assortment of quirky characters, like Julie White as Jeremy’s overbearingly clueless mother, who wrongly assumes he’s gay, but the whole thing lacks essential comic drive.

White, an often spectacular comic actress on the stage, injects the only real fun into the proceedings, which become increasingly morose, not only for Amy, facing an ever-bleaker future, but for the audience as well. Lynskey’s performance is too much in cahoots with the filmmaker’s agenda, and although wanly likeable, she displays not a whit of personal charisma or gumption which would draw you into her plight. (It’s like seeing Priscilla Lane playing a role Ginger Rogers might have redeemed with her verve and spunk.) Abbott manages to evince a convincingly adolescent charm, but Danner is again wasted in a role that requires her to do little more than cluck in her trademark sandpapery voice.

The title derives from Groucho Marx’s famous ditty from Animal Crackers, and the film is laced with sequences from the Marx Brothers movies Amy enjoys watching. But those films don’t seem to have any truly deep motivational or personal resonance with her, and only make you wish you were watching them instead of this.