You have probably seen the scene in the trailer for Hello I Must Be Going. Melanie Lynskey's character, Amy, trips and falls on her face on a rocky shore at the beach. Though the trailer cuts right after she screams, the actual dialogue in the movie is her shouting out to whatever cosmic force will listen, demanding to know where "bottom" actually is so that she might hit it. Confession time: I am pretty sure bottom is being a movie critic and thinking the title of Hello I Must Be Going was lifted from a Phil Collins album, only to feel incredibly stupid when the movie otherwise informs you that it's a Groucho-led tune from a Marx Bros. comedy. Oooops.
Hello I Must Be Going is the third feature-length directorial effort from Todd Louiso (Love Liza), and the first screenplay from actress Sarah Koskoff. It's a thirtysomething story about a woman suddenly cast adrift. Amy (Lynskey) has recently split with her husband, and not by choice. After letting her own ambitions slide to focus on their marriage and his career, Amy is shocked to find David (Dan Futterman, a.k.a. Barry from Will & Grace) has moved on to someone else. At the start of the picture, Amy is back home with her parents, depressed and unmotivated. She has no idea how to hit reset on her life. Her mother (Blythe Danner) is hoping she will figure it out sooner rather than later. Amy's father (John Rubinstein) is courting some important clients, and there is going to be a big dinner at the house. If Amy wants to attend, she'll need to clean herself up.
Through a little trial and error, this happens, and at the dinner, Amy meets Jeremy (Girls' Christopher Abbott), the 19-year-old stepson of the would-be client. Jeremy is an actor, though like Amy, frustrated by the choices he has made, having been locked into his career by others, not of his own accord. The boy also has a thing for older women, and through aggressive attentiveness, makes a play for Amy. A secret affair blossoms, and it begins to pull Amy out of her funk--but again, choices are not without consequences. In addition to the relationship story, Koskoff and Louiso build a multi-tiered depiction of various stages of life running parallel. It's not just Jeremy and Amy who are unhappy, but also Amy's parents. If Dad can score this client, he can retire, and his wife can have the quiet senior years she's been dreaming of. But again, whose choice is this? The answer is never as easy as it seems.
Much of what makes Hello I Must Be Going so good is down to the exceptional cast. Everyone here is doing outstanding work--Danner brings complexity to what could be a one-note role; Jimmi Simpson from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia nearly derails everything with his funny turn as a blind date--though in a way this is an embarrassment of riches, as Melanie Lynskey could easily carry the movie all by herself. Probably known to most American moviegoers for her recurring character on Two and a Half Men, others will know her from her memorable supporting roles in movies like Away We Go and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Given the room to stretch here, the actress mostly goes small, layering herself in the insular experience of depression. There are occasional moments of comedy, but Lynskey--and the film as a whole--is at its best when it plays everything straight. There is an emotional purity to Koskoff's writing that Lynskey brings across beautifully, particularly in later scenes when she confronts Jeremy and her ex-husband directly (but separately) about what is happening between them. No messing around, just honest talk amongst grown-ups. The romance is depicted believably, without any rush of adolescent emotion. The same tact is applied to the different life decisions that the many characters must make before Hello I Must Be Going is through.
If Hello I Must Be Going has any drawbacks, it's actually when those rare comedic moments do surface, or when Louiso threatens to take the film off track and indulge in the expected tropes of the more typical "getting my groove back" drama. He and cinematographer Julie Kirkwood shoot the movie with an unadorned immediacy that puts the viewer in the moment and lets the performers work without ever getting in their way or drawing attention elsewhere. So, to sacrifice that for an easy gag or hackneyed epiphanies would be fatal. Luckily, every time it appears that Hello I Must Be Going is going to blow out, the narrative corrects itself and gets back on track. The film charts a steady course to an emotional insight and impact that resonates, finding the right "up" note to end on so the audience can feel they've earned the same kind of closure as the film's heroine.
The widescreen transfer on Hello I Must Be Going is shown at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The colors are good, and the photography maintains a realistic feel without sacrificing any artistry. At times I noted some jagged edges on moving figures, but this could be the byproduct of the digital photography. Overall, detail is strong. Night scenes are possessed of inky blacks with no crushing, and skin tones are natural. The latter is of particular importance, as this is a film often played in close-up. Hello I Must Be Going is a film about people and their reactions to each other and the world around them, so seeing them as actual people is crucial.
The main soundtrack is given two separate mixes, a 5.1 surround option and a stereo option. The former is much warmer than the latter, with nicely placed background effects, but either choice will serve you well. The dialogue is crisp and easily discernible, and there are no dropouts, glitches, or distortions.
English subtitles are available.
Oscilloscope packaged Hello I Must Be Going in its usual elaborate (though easily crushed) foldout design, decorated with illustrations from Alija Craycroft. The extras here are interviews, including an exclusive 11-and-a-half-minute piece with director Louiso and writer Sarah Koskoff. The interview with Melanie Lynskey was conducted by David Poland for "Movie City News" (8 mins., 30 secs.). It's interesting to hear her talk in her native New Zealander accent. I had totally forgotten that she was co-star of Heavenly Creatures.
You also get the theatrical trailer, which I recall being quite effective in the theatre. But, of course, if you watch it here, well, you're already sold.
Highly Recommended. At first glance, Hello I Must Be Going may appear to be your standard indie fare, but those who take a chance and plug the film into their DVD player will find an emotionally rich drama about mid-life detours awaits. An amazing cast, led by a raw performance from the charming Melanie Lynskey, brings to life the struggles of several different strata of people, young to old, struggling with their places in life, seeking clues to what their next moves will be. The solutions are hard-won, and though the script does not maintain its focus at all times, Hello I Must Be Going always finds its way back to where it's heading.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with JoŽlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.