A tryst of a film, not built to last
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, September 21, 2012
A charming if slight dramatic comedy about a summer fling between a 30-something divorcee and an unusually mature teenager, “Hello I Must Be Going” succeeds almost entirely on the strength of Melanie Lynskey’s heartfelt and humorous performance in the lead role.
As Amy, a Manhattan housewife who moves back in with her suburban parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein) when her husband (Dan Futterman) dumps her, Lynskey is a quirky delight. She brings an appealing mix of insecurity and antisocial verve that only makes her stand out more in the upscale Connecticut bedroom community where she grew up, and where she now finds herself, clinically depressed and confused. She’s the formerly fat girl who still doesn’t fit in, and she’s definitely unaware of her sexiness.
Not that we can detect terribly much of that either, at first. When “Hello” opens, Amy hasn’t left her parents’ house in three months. Her hair is greasy and unkempt, her T-shirt is sweat-stained and the look of inertia on her face adds 10 pounds.
But then she meets Jeremy (Christopher Abbott), the 19-year-old son of her parents’ friends, at a dinner party. Amy’s face -- and outlook -- brightens considerably as the two begin an affair that’s at first tentative and then increasingly torrid. (It’s also pretty darn funny, as when Jeremy, an aspiring actor who’s visiting from New York, invites Amy up to his childhood bedroom, a love nest where the bed is still made up in baseball-themed sheets. It’s not just inappropriate; it feels borderline illegal.)
Amy, for the most part, gets that. For her, Jeremy is the temporary “antidepressant” that her mother keeps urging her to take. For Jeremy, the arrangement is a bit more serious. Like Amy, he’s also something of a misfit. His mother is convinced he’s gay, the likely result of his playing Robert Mapplethorpe and Walt Whitman onstage. What exactly he wants out of their affair in the long run, however, isn’t clear.
“You’re supposed to be the adult in this relationship,” he tells Amy, during a discussion about their future.
“It’s not a relationship,” she snaps back.
As with the May-September dalliance between Catherine Keener’s and Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters in “Lovely and Amazing,” we know this one can’t last either, but it’s fun while it does. The film’s title pretty much promises a bittersweet ending.
Just how bitter, and how sweet? Actress Sarah Koskoff’s first feature script has enough drama to lend ballast to the comedy, and enough sardonic humor to avoid sentimentality. Director Todd Louiso (“Love Liza”) handles the proceedings with sensitivity, never playing things for cheap laughs or melodrama.
In the end, Lynskey’s performance carries the film, and that bodes well for her future as a leading lady after a lifetime of playing second fiddle. “Hello I Must Be Going” isn’t heavy lifting, to be sure. But it’s still worthy of a little end zone dance.
Contains obscenity, sex, drug use and brief nudity.