A woman walks through an airport complaining to a friend on the phone about being in the security line for 45 minutes because the woman ahead of her lost her boarding pass. “Who loses their boarding pass between check-in and security?” Then, as she reaches her gate, a handsome man hands her a piece of paper. “You dropped this,” he says as he hands her own boarding pass. This is the meet-cute in Good on Paper, a film which follows standup comedy Amanda (Iliza Shlesinger) as she embarks on a relationship with a man who seems too good to be true.
Written by and starring Shlesinger and directed by Kimmy Gatewood, the films seem primed to tell a story unlike what we’ve seen before, but while the intent is noble, the execution is only fine.
As Amanda takes her seat on the plane the handsome man she met takes his seat right beside her. Dennis (Ryan Hansen) seems like a fairly normal guy, if a little braggy: he works in hedge funds, he went to Yale, he has a model for a girlfriend, but he’s weirdly charming and polite to a fault. The two become friends, and later start dating. Of course, not all is as it seems, and over the course of the second act red flags do start a flying.
Dennis claims to have bought a house in Beverly Hills, but two women live at his current address. His mother is sick, but there’s never a good time for Amanda to meet her, and his story about just about everything in his life seems to change at a moments notice. Some of the funniest moments in the film come as Amanda starts to investigate the inconsistencies, and supporting turns by Margaret Cho and Rebecca Rittenhouse help as the three have a fun comic dynamic (especially Cho, who has most of the funniest lines in the movie). Hansen, for his part, sells his characters weirdness well, and while it’d be a spoiler to say what happens, he really shines in the third act. Schlesinger herself is fun in the lead role, and if you like her style of comic delivery, then you are in for a good time with her too.
However, while some of the one-liners and wry observations are funny, the film is not often laugh out loud funny, and some of the moments we should really talk about (including how the third act does indeed turn some rom-com tropes on their head) are straight-up dramatic.
The result is that the film is a little tonally inconsistent, and for a film that bill itself as a comedy, not very funny. Occasionally the film cuts back to Schlesinger’s standup routine, one that recounts the story’s themes succinctly and funnily, but those segments made me wish I was watching that standup routine instead.
Good On Paper isn’t a bad film, but it’s not a great one either. It has some funny moments and some fun performances, but it’s a little too uneven to work given that it’s not that funny.
Good on Paper debuts on Netflix tomorrow, June 23rd, 2021.
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