“Hello I Must Be Going” features a tremendous piece of acting from the ever underrated actress Melanie Lynskey and a wonderful supporting turn by Blythe Danner, but just about every other part of the film is a bit more mixed. The character work is enjoyable enough, but it’s stuck within the confines of a plot that does it no favors at times. The film is opens this Friday but when I saw it early in the summer, it was still a highly regarded film out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Now, the luster has gone down and I think people will see things a little more fairly. I’m still recommending it the film but there’s a constant sense of this being a character study that really needs to give its central character more to do. Lynskey turns in her best performance to date and one of the best by a female this year (and in a fairer world would be in talks for a Best Actress nomination), but it wouldn’t be quite enough to get a recommendation from me without Danner’s work as well.
Amy Minksy (Lynskey) is a recently divorced woman forced by circumstances to move back in to the upscale Connecticut home of her older parents, and she isn’t taking it well. Her mother Ruth Minsky (Blythe Danner) is on her back about getting on with her life, and her father Stan Minsky (John Rubinstein) is content to just ignore the situation as much as possible. Amy is sort of getting a head start on a midlife crisis, unsure of what to do with her life and overall just caught in a funk. Things only begin to change for her when she meets Jeremy (Christopher Abbot), a brooding young man who’s the son of one of Amy’s parents’ friends/guests for dinner. Jeremy is way into Amy and actually kisses her the very night they meet. Amy is initially confused, but the subsequent meeting is even more physical and she begins to feel herself coming more alive. She realizes the age difference is a problem, and it bothers her, but Jeremy is all in, so Amy will have to decide if she can handle the relationship, and what this means overall for her life in general. Not groundbreaking stuff but it functions as a passable way to study Amy. I wish it was more than just passable.
While she’ll probably have to settle for an Independent Spirit nomination at best, Melanie Lynskey does deserve actual Oscar consideration for her excellent performance here. She fully embodies the character with a deep sadness that’s palpable throughout, yet she never stops being endearing to us. It’s a harder acting job than I think you initially realize, but Lynskey pulls it off quite nicely. Blythe Danner is terrific as well, giving her character a depth that I wasn’t expecting based on early scenes. Lynskey may be best in show, but Danner is a solid second place and in a perfect world would be a dark horse Supporting Actress contender. Christopher Abbott brings something interesting to the role but unfortunately is stuck in a character that isn’t fully formed. As for John Rubinstein, Dan Futterman, and Julie White, well, they just fade into the background.
The writing and direction are where my qualms mainly are. Todd Louiso and Sarah Koskoff keep things far moodier than you’d expect them to. Louiso’s direction and pacing leaves something to be desired and he never consistently seems sure of what he wants to come next in his film. Koskoff’s script feels incomplete, lacking enough for any of the characters to do. Amy is well written, but no one else really is, except perhaps for Amy’s mother Ruth. Stan and Jeremy are left frustratingly incomplete. Louiso doesn’t have any directorial flourishes to make us concentrate less on the plot, and Koskoff doesn’t have a solid enough script to make us forget about the simple direction.
I hardly want to paint “Hello I Must Be Going” as a bad film, since it’s not, and I think a decent amount of you will enjoy it this weekend when it opens. It simply didn’t completely wow me and doesn’t look like the Oscar hopeful that it once did. If you see it, see it for Melanie Lynskey’s excellent lead performance and Blythe Danner’s supporting work. The film opens Friday, September 7, 2012.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!