Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Review Revue: HELLO I MUST BE GOING

Every year at Sundance there are the actors and actresses who “break out.” Last night, Melanie Lynskey made a strong early play for the title of Breakout Star of the 2012 festival, earning ecstatic reviews for her performance in the U.S. Dramatic Competition film HELLO I MUST BE GOING. After her impressive debut in Peter Jackson’s HEAVENLY CREATURES eighteen years ago, Lynskey embarked on a long and successful career as a character actress. HELLO I MUST BE GOING pushes her into the spotlight in a leading role that is garnering raves from critics across the board.

She plays Amy Minsky, 35 and newly divorced from her husband (Dan Futterman). She moves back in with her parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein) and settles in for a good depressive wallow. But before you can say “How do you spell Zoloft? One ‘l’ or two?” Amy meets 19-year-old Jeremy (Christopher Abbott), the son of one of her father’s clients. I don’t know all the steps between A and Z, but after the two begin a secret affair, Lynskey, according to Entertainment Weekly‘s Anthony Breznican, “strips naked and sings the Canadian national anthem… during a playful skinny-dip in the family swimming pool.” Oh Canada!

Breznican calls Lynskey’s performance a “sexy breakthrough” — and everyone else in Park City seems to agree. Sean P. Means from The Salt Lake Tribune says Lynskey brings “poignancy and dead-on comic skills” and “imbues the self-doubting Amy with such lightness that she manages to make neediness appealing.” Means gave the film three and a half stars, and credited director Todd Louiso with finding “the right balance of laughter and sadness in this offbeat romance.” Amanda Mae Meyncke from Film.com concurred, calling HELLO I MUST BE GOING “predictable but sweet.”

Of course “offbeat romance” has become a popular subgenre at Sundance over the years; other reviews complained that HELLO I MUST BE GOING’s predictability was a bit less sweet. Over at Variety, Peter Debruge found the film’s “seriocomic” tone too familiar, writing that it “feels as though the material was never allowed to assert its own individuality, instead left to rehash themes better expressed by THE GOOD GIRL and other seriocomic indies.” Gregory Ellwood from HitFix saw it the same way, lamenting the emphasis on “indie cliches” and an unnecessary obsession on wrapping up every one of the film’s subplots. “The movie’s characters would have been much better served,” he wrote, “by leaving some of the story’s secondary conflicts open to the audience’s imagination.”

I’ve always liked Lynskey, so I’m glad to see her getting some much-deserved attention, even if HELLO I MUST BE GOING doesn’t go to a ton of new places for a romantic dramedy. After a few more words from the Sundance’s Twitterati, I will leave the rest open to my audience’s imagination.

Twee-views:

“I came into HELLO I MUST BE GOING with very high expectations. Damned if the movie didn’t top them. Beautiful, funny, and uplifting.” — Anthony Breznican, Entertainment Weekly

“HELLO I MUST BE GOING has wall-to-wall great perfs but it’s all about the next-level work of the extraordinary” @melanielynskey #Sundance” — Alonso Duralde, TheWrap

“Todd Louiso’s HELLO I MUST BE GOING at #Sundance is a rewarding, richly observed older-woman/younger-guy romcom w/lovely Melanie Lynskey” Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

“HELLO I MUST BE GOING: Melanie Lynskey’s perfectly frumpy performance elevates the indie routine of finding one’s self back home. #Sundance” — William Goss, Film.com

“HELLO I MUST BE GOING is too paint-by-numbers Sundance. Great performance by Melanie Lynsky, but needs more originality” — Erik Davis, Movies.com

And guess what? The folks behind (and in front of) HELLO I MUST BE GOING stopped by Sundance Channel HQ today. Check it out.