With almost unnoticeable ease, Lynskey gives one of the best performances of the year.
Occasionally, a film, neither particularly good nor bad, can serve as a launching board for an actor who may have gone unnoticed by most audiences. Melissa Leo’s breakthrough performance came in 2008’s Frozen River, which, in turn, led to serious exposure and eventually an Academy Award. Tom Hardy blew away audiences and critics internationally in Bronson, also in 2008, but it wasn’t until his performance in Christopher Nolan’s Inception that his career really began to take off. Likewise, Melanie Lynskey has been giving solid (and frequently hilarious) performances for almost two decades since she appeared in Peter Jackson’s Beautiful Creatures. With Hello I Must Be Going, Lynskey demonstrates her wonderful talent as an actor and is finally getting the recognition she deserves.
Amy Minsky (Lynskey) is attempting to recover from an emotionally draining divorce by hiding out in the home of her WASP-y parents, Ruth (Blythe Danner) and Stan (John Rubinstein). While living at home is nothing new for twentysomethings suffering from post-college malaise, Amy is in her 30s and has never really accomplished anything. Tired of her daughter moping around the house, Ruth not so subtly suggests to Amy that she might want to buy some new clothes and start working out since she’s “back on the market” now. Unsurprisingly, her mother’s prompts do little to help Amy’s mental distress.
Things change when Stan invites a potential client and his wife over for dinner and they bring their son, Jeremy (Christopher Abbott), an actor who seems to squirm with physical pain whenever anyone references the modest fame he earned from his work on a children’s show. Almost without warning, Amy and Jeremy begin having a secret affair, spurred on by their shared disdain for their parents’ involvement in their lives. There’s just one problem: Jeremy is only 19, something that doesn’t escape Amy’s attention. The two clearly have strong chemistry, though, and a relationship quickly develops, despite the fact that if they are discovered it could ruin Stan’s relationship with a big fish client, resulting in his retirement.
With almost unnoticeable ease, Lynskey gives one of the best performances of the year. Most recognizable from her recurring role as Rose on Two and a Half Men, Lynskey has been reliably delightful in films such as Sweet Home Alabama, The Informant!, and Win Win. With Hello, though, she gets the chance to shine as the film’s center, and she does not disappoint. Amy is a complex and difficult character, one who could easily be seen as either unsympathetic or not relatable. In Lynskey’s hands, though, Amy feels authentic and real, suffering the pangs of life that many will easily identify with.
Directed by Todd Louiso and written by Sarah Koskoff, Hello has difficulty settling on an overall tone. While it is genuinely moving and quite funny, Louiso and Koskoff can’t quite decide if they are striving for serious drama with hints of humor, or comedy with moments of seriousness. Overall, though, the film is very entertaining. Louiso’s unobtrusive style of directing makes the film very accessible, but it doesn’t quite fully connect. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. In addition to Lynskey’s excellent work, we get to see newcomer Abbott (HBO’s Girls) prove his worth as a lovelorn but emotionally stunted young man, as well as Danner giving yet another deliciously infuriating performance as Amy’s too-self-involved mother.
Hello, I Must Be Going isn’t a resounding success, but it has gotten its star much-deserved attention and respect. With luck, Lynskey’s name will be thrown around during awards season, giving the film even greater exposure to audiences that may not have otherwise seen it. | Matthew Newlin