Directed by Todd Louiso
Written by Sarah Koskoff
Opens Jan. 27 in Toronto
It’s a strange epiphany when one realizes that following their life passion is a self-made path to nowhere. Movies have taught us to seize the day (thank you, Robin Williams), but reality tells us something much different. A Philosophy degree will ultimately get you nowhere, and showing an active interest in photography doesn’t make you Robert Capa (one will be reminded of Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation). Hello I Must Be Going is about the crisis between that reality and wistful idealism, and although it tends to be a tad too slight and mild at points, is charming in its whimsy, nonetheless.
In the film, Amy (Melanie Lynskey), a down-on-her-luck 30-something, comes to this epiphany after a divorce and moving back in with her parents (Blythe Danner, John Rubinstein). As an English-lit major who studied photography in graduate school, her career prospects are appropriately dismal, and there’s nary a silver lining to be found on the cloud of perpetual gloom that follows her.
One day, during a dinner party that her father concocts to woo a potential client, Amy finds herself smitten with the client’s much-too-young stepson, Jeremy (Christopher Abbott). He’s 19-years-old, vegan, mistaken to be gay by his mother, and is possibly the only actor in the world that finds meaningful work but hates the actual art of acting. But more importantly, his unfulfilled and parental-guided life mirrors that of Amy’s to a tee.
As a woman in a sudden and premature mid-life crisis (or as a woman that simply hasn’t grown up), her illicit tryst with the young lad is perfectly symptomatic of her problems. Which is to say, she’s still stuck in the carefree, responsibility-rejecting ideals of youth. She sneaks out of the house to see him, throws rocks at his window to get his attention, smokes pot, and goes skinny-dipping; even her heart-to-heart discussion with her father evokes the one in Sixteen Candles. Although she knows it won’t last, Amy is willing to do anything, it seems, to recapture and stay in her long-gone teenage years.
The filmmakers drop in subtle clues to emphasize this point. The film’s title is taken from a Groucho Marx song of the same name and evokes the innocence and optimism of Amy’s childhood (she and her father watched the Marx Brothers together when she was younger), and the opening scene, where Amy wakes up to the sound of hammers and power saws, suggests a life still under construction.
Melanie Lynskey, the consummate character actor in various supporting parts, finally gets a chance to shine in her first real leading role. She does well as the emotionally trapped divorcée, playing awkward with believable naturalism. Her supporting staff is not nearly as impressive, in comparison, but they come together as a nice ensemble cast that get the job done.
Hello I Must Be Going, which opened the 2012 festival, typifies a Sundance film with its slight and offbeat look at the minutiae of contemporary, upper-class life (plush with a sometimes-intrusive indie-folk score), but it never really oscillates in terms of dramatic tension or conflict. The ending is somewhat predictable and wraps up a bit too perfectly, but the heart of the story, and the performance of Ms. Lynskey, elevates Hello I Must Be Going above normal mumblecore affair.
- Justin Li