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I cannot adequately describe how much I wanted to love this movie, but I must be honest: it did not get me involved.
By this point in time, everybody is drooling over Melanie Lynskey's performance in "Hello I Must Be Going." I am too. But my admiration does not end strictly with her work in this ambitious little movie; there is a lot of due credit owed to her co-stars, particularly newcomer Christopher Abbott, who plays her much-younger lover, and the insistently reliable Blythe Danner as Miss Lynskey's mother. I guess Miss Lynskey is collecting most of the praise because ever since "Heavenly Creatures" in 1994 and her last appearance in "Two and a Half Men" (one of my favorite shows) everybody wants to see her become a big star. But she and everybody else in "Hello I Must Be Going" is in good form. My only wish was that they were encapsulated by a screenplay worthy of their energy and panache.
I cannot adequately describe how much I wanted to love this movie. Stories about nonconformist relationships interest me, in real life as well as in the movies. And this premisea woman completely drained over her recent divorce discovering the true meaning of love and of live in her affair with a younger mansounds like an absolute winner. Unfortunately, most of the fun and all of the really tender moments are collected in the first 25 minutes and the final 10; these wonderful bits, where I felt my heart strings being yanked on, sandwich a lot of padded-out detritus. And a lot of genuinely unfunny jokes. For instance: when will the romantic comedy genre ever give up on the gag where an elderly woman walks in upon a couple while they are skinny dipping? It wasn't funny when it happened to Campbell Scott and Julia Roberts in "Dying Young" 21 years ago, and it certainly is not funny here.
I cannot deny that the movie has great ambitions: it doesn't want to be just a love story; it wants to make some subtle yet true observations about life. Both Miss Lynskey and Mr. Abbott, in the course of their on-screen relationship, embark on an emotional journey, guiding them to realizing the emptiness surrounding them. A key moment in the picture is when they are having dinner with each other's families, and both are indirectly being put on the hot spot: Miss Lynskey's divorce keeps getting brought up, and Mr. Abbott's self-hated career in stage acting is the only dinner conversation his mother can think of. And then there is the final ten minutes, including a wonderful and entirely honest sequence about marriage, set in a New York diner. And I must commend screenwriter Sarah Koskoff for having the guts to write an ending in which not all of the bows are tied, not every character makes their amends.
The remarkable thing, however, is that Miss Lynskey and Mr. Abbott do not spend nearly as much time together as you would imagine. And many of their moments are punctuated by sex scenesoh, boy, am I getting sick and tired of those as well! Thankfully, they are photographed very quick, but they do not seem to register an erotic or emotional effect. I suppose the idea was that the two characters used the sex to fill the voids in their own lives, but surely there are better ways for characters to bond. I personally am more interested in movie-couples who do not jump into bed (or into the backseat of a car, in this case) two days after they first lay eyes on one another. And after a while, good as they are, Miss Lynskey and Mr. Abbott run out of interesting things to talk about; they just start screaming at one another. And, closer to the end of the movie, just when we think we are about to get a truly beautiful momenta reconciliationthe movie has to pull the dumb, somebody-opens-the-door gag which completely stops the scene. Then there's the excess characters: Julie White exists for no purpose other than to drive Melanie Lynskey home from the bar one night; Jimmi Simpson plays a drip so mawkishly pathetic that I found myself looking to my watch. I understand the point of the character: he's supposed to represent to Miss Lynskey what might eventually become of her. It's not the intentions or the acting, it's the writing.
Then there's the other thing that rubbed me raw. Laura Veirs is credited for writing the original score for this movie, but it's hard to appreciate her instrumental work since most of the soundtrack is riddled with about six or seven too many songs. Maybe it's a personal problem; I'm one of the few people of my generation (adult males under 30) who is not particularly interested in contemporary music. But if I saw one more walking scene with a bunch of overblown lyrics thumping away in the background, I was going to start pounding my forehead.
Believe me when I tell you, I really regret having to stomp all over "Hello I Must Be Going." There is so much ambition in this movie and so many really talented people involved. And even though I've faulted screenwriter Koskoff's work, she does show promise: a bold story and some bursts of really good dialogue. As somebody who has been on the set of an independent movie, I know how much hard work goes into making one. I know script changes are constantly being made; there's pressure to get everything done on schedule. And above all, I hate to put it down for the same reason I always hate giving negative reviews in general: I have to admit to a storyteller that I did not like the story they were telling. But I have to be absolutely honest: "Hello I Must Be Going" did not register very much emotional impact with me. Again, in the beginning and at the end, there is a lot of punch, the middle of the movie really drags for me.
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