Hello I Must Be Going (yes, it does have a connection to Groucho Marx’s song from Animal Crackers) is a pleasant little romantic comedy (with some degree of drama) that I confess I would like better without its grating indie-pop soundtrack. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, because I did — probably mostly for Melanie Lynskey, an actress who has rarely been given her due on the big screen. She started out on equal footing with Kate Winslet in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (in my book, it’s still his most accomplished film) in 1994. But while Winslet’s career immediately took off, Lynskey’s has largely been relegated to supporting roles (right now you can see her in a small role in The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Well, here she has a film she can call her own — and she does. Though she has some solid support, this is every inch her movie.
Lynskey plays Amy Minsky, who at about 35 finds herself freshly divorced, utterly depressed and back home in Connecticut living with her upscale parents — her upscale, well-meaning, but rather clueless parents. Her father (TV actor John Rubinstein) is absorbed in his business and seems to see not much wrong with Amy lying in bed watching the Marx Brothers movies he shared with her as a child. (They both have splendid taste in the Marxes, sticking with their Paramount years.) Her mother (Blythe Danner) is somewhat more intent on pushing Amy back into the real world, but she has her own concerns involving redecorating the house and planning for an around-the-world trip with her husband as soon as he closes a certain deal and retires. That deal turns out to be what sets the plot — and Amy — in motion, thanks to a dinner with the other half of the deal and his family. It turns out that the family has a 19-year-old son, Jeremy (Christopher Abbott, Martha Marcy May Marlene), who may be the only person at the table with less desire to be there than Amy.
Not surprisingly — especially given the type of film this is — Amy and Jeremy end up drawn to each other and in no uncertain terms. In fact, it’s only after they’ve had sex that Amy learns that Jeremy is gay — or so his mother (Julie White, Shia La Beouf’s mom in the Transformers pictures) thinks. Just why his mother thinks this seems to be grounded in him having successfully played a gay man in a play (that he’s now down to play Walt Whitman perhaps seals the deal). It’s actually doubtful that Jeremy knows just what he is, but he does know that he connects with Amy and that he doesn’t — despite what his mother believes — want to be an actor. The problem with all this isn’t just that Amy has qualms about the difference in their ages, but because their relationship could ruin her father’s business deal.
What follows is good-natured, good-hearted and, yeah, somewhat cut to fit the rom-com pattern, but neither unpleasantly so, nor unrealistically. There are undercurrents to the story that keep it always believable and engaging. (It’s refreshing that a film can actually realize that a 35-year-old has every right to behave in a manner usually attributed to much younger characters.) And while the film has nothing similar stylistically or in terms of dialogue, it’s nice to encounter an ending that Woody Allen might have approved of. Much of the thrust of the film is really contained in the lyrics of the Bert Kalmar-Harry Ruby song from which the film takes its title. (That, too, is Allenesque. Allen used the song over the opening credits of Whatever Works in 2009.) Although we only hear it once in the course of the film, its words seem to apply to every aspect of Amy’s life — her marriage, her sojourn with her parents and maybe her romance with Jeremy. Rom-coms are rarely like this. Rated R for language and sexual content.
Starts Friday at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14