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Dustin Putman

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Hello I Must Be Going  (2012)
3 Stars
Directed by Todd Louiso.
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Christopher Abbott, Blythe Danner, John Rubinstein, Julie White, Jimmi Simpson, Dan Futterman, Damian Young, Meera Simhan.
2012 – 95 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for language and sexual content).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, September 10, 2012.
Amy Minsky (Melanie Lynskey) is in her mid-thirties, newly divorced, and back living at home with parents Ruth (Blythe Danner) and Stan (John Rubinstein). She used to be an aspiring photographer, but now she does nothing, drifting aimlessly in a fog of ennui and self-pity. Ruth constantly nags at her to buy a nice shirt, or a new dress, as if the answer to all her problems is an additional wardrobe choice. She doesn't stop to realize that Amy was perfectly happy in her marriage; she was as blindsided as anyone when husband David (Dan Futterman) announced that he wanted a divorce. Amy is played by the quirky and lovable Melanie Lynskey (2011's "Win Win"), an instantly invaluable asset to whatever supporting role she's typically asked to fill out. A sharp comic performer who can just as easily break a viewer's heart, Lynskey's range runs wide—wider than most casting directors give her credit for. Now, at long last, Lynskey has been gifted with the movie's lead, one of the first she's had since her breakout debut turn in 1994's Peter Jackson-directed true crime drama "Heavenly Creatures." Almost always front and center, she makes pre-midlife-crisis seriocomedy "Hello I Must Be Going" into so much more than what it could have been in lesser hands: familiar indie tripe about a young woman trying to find herself.

As compassionately written by Sarah Koskoff and directed with a gentle, incisive eye by Todd Louiso, the film flourishes first and foremost through its lost and aching protagonist. At the start, Amy Minsky sleeps late and rarely goes outside, regularly seen munching chips while watching "One Day at a Time" reruns or crying softly in bed at night while Marx Bros. comedies play on her television. Her closest relationship is with her father, who regularly checks in on her even if he's not the best conversationalist. The point is, they very much value and love each other, which makes it all the more difficult for Amy to come clean when she starts sleeping with 19-year-old Jeremy (Christopher Abbott), the actor son of Stan's current clients. Amy is well aware that if anyone were to find out, it could ruin things for her dad and keep him from his planned retirement. She also knows that she is about fifteen years older than Jeremy, a fact she is reminded about when they steal away to hang out in his bedroom, action figures still littering the shelves. The age difference notwithstanding, however, Amy and Jeremy get along great. He is far from having it all figured out—he's allowed his own mother (Julie White) to go along believing he's gay after he played a recent stage part a little too well—but there is an unusual maturity to him that transcends his still-teenaged years. Then again, maybe part of their connection is due to Amy's stunted development; without a husband, she reverts backward in time, a chance to reclaim some of her lost years of youth until the bitter truth—as when she shows up at a party she believes Jeremy is attending, only for one of the guests to loudly announce, "Somebody's mom's here!"—slaps her in the face.

"Hello I Must Be Going" does not wallow in its May-December relationship (it's more like May-September, anyway), but suggests that although Amy and Jeremy grow to love each other, both parties might be better off focusing on themselves rather than other people for the time being. Beyond that, the picture also zeroes in on the unpredictable bridge between children and parents, the connection that will always be there even when neither party can quite see eye to eye. So it goes with Amy and Ruth, an ever-greater rift forming as neither one quite understands what the other is going through. When these two's disagreements come to a head, carried out with heated frustration and pathos by Melanie Lynskey and Blythe Danner (2012's "The Lucky One"), it is stinging and raw and impossible to turn away from. It also allows for Amy's climactic act of empathy toward her mother to strike as all the sweeter. They are both going to be all right.

Filmed in the New England town of Westport, Connecticut—its very quaintness is subject of an entire conversation as Amy shows Jeremy around—"Hello I Must Be Going" carries with it a low-key transcendence, all the more valuable because the same general premise could have easily made for a more shallow and derivative experience. Amy is neither of these things, starting off as something of an empty canvass before blossoming in every way imaginable. By not sweating the small stuff, by learning to stand up for herself rather than shrink into the corner, she has made a necessary step in the right direction. As someone quite wise tells her, we're all human, and we all make mistakes. "What can you do?"
© 2012 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman