Review: 'Hello I Must Be Going' starring Melanie Lynskey and Christopher Abbott
In some ways it's disappointing that Melanie Lynskey is best known for her screwball supporting turn as a stalker in Two and a Half Men. A welcome presence and one of the few redeeming qualities of that juvenile sitcom, her every foray into feature film shows her to be capable of so much more. Beginning her career as a teenager opposite Kate Winslet in Peter Jackson's extraordinary Heavenly Creatures, she's since gone on to show an uncommon versatility as a scene-stealing co-star in films like Up in the Air and Away We Go. Better late than never, Hello I Must Be Going is the best shot Lynskey's had at being a leading lady, and she gives a subtle and mature performance that ranks as one of the year's finest.
Amy (Lysnkey) has been kicked in the teeth by life in the worst way, and she doesn't quite know how to bounce back from it. A rudderless ship drifting along after a recent divorce, Amy's spent the last few months back in her parents home with no job, no prospects, no direction, and practically nothing to call her own. Her father Stan(Dan Rubenstein) loves her and worries for his daughter's well-being. Her mother Ruth(Blythe Danner) has long since been fed up with Amy's lack of focus and an apparent lifetime of wasted opportunities. All Ruth wants at this point is for Amy to shape up, and for Stan to finally retire so they can take that cruise around the world she's been hoping.
But Amy's moodiness and crushing depression threaten to derail more than just her own life, but those of her family as well. Her father hopes to finally pass the business off to his son, and to do that he'll need the business of a wealthy prospective client. During a family dinner in order to court his business, old family tensions rise up to make for an awkward evening, but in the process Amy shares a fleeting romantic moment with Jeremy(Christopher Abbott), the client's stepson.
It turns out to be more than just a momentary loss of inhibitions, as Amy embarks on a whirlwind romance with Jeremy that could jeopardize everything for her father. But it's that irresponsibility, that recklessness that is part of the animal attraction. Well, that and the fact that Jeremy is a man barely half her age. His youthful energy and enthusiastic adoration of her pulls her out of her funk, and she finds that they have more in common than she ever could have thought. Jeremy's well-meaning but strict mother is a dominating presence in his life, while Amy's caustic relationship with Ruth is frequently expressed through angry condemnation.
Directed by actor turned filmmaker Todd Louiso(Love Liza), with a wonderfully nuanced script by Sarah Koskoff, the film finds gentle touches of laughter and heartbreak in Amy's state of arrested development. When we first meet her she's a pitiable sad sack, barely able to get out of bed and practically living in her old ratty t-shirt. Lynskey hits all the comedic notes right on the head when they present themselves, particularly in Amy's desperate attempts to hide the relationship from her family, which has her scrambling around like a schoolgirl covering her tracks. But amongst all the humor we also see much of Amy's growth as she sheds the frustration that has been her life. Lynskey gets a number of complicated emotional beats to nail, from chronically despondent to wild ebullience. Her impressive range drives the film, even through the rare times when it loses a little momentum. For the most part the entire cast give superlative performances, in particular Danner who really jumps at the chance to play a character with some genuine ferocity.
In the end, it's just plain refreshing to see the familiar "older woman, younger guy" paradigm tackled from the female perspective, done in a serious and sensitive manner. For all the reasons Hello I Must Be Going is a film that surpasses the typical indie-drama fare, it's Lynskey who proves once and for all that she deserves to be considered amongst Hollywood's upper echelon of leading ladies.
Trav's Tip: Melanie Lynskey's real life husband, Jimmi Simpson, makes a cameo during a blind date that doesn't go quite as planned.