Most recognizable for her recurring role on Two and a Half Men as Charlie’s stalker neighbor, Rose, New Zealander Melanie Lynskey burst into film at age 16 with an award-winning turn in Peter Jackson’s exquisite Heavenly Creatures opposite Kate Winslet. Nearly three decades later, her career has taken a markedly different course from her costar’s—recognizable by face if not by name, she’s had minor roles of the “She was in that!?” variety in dozens of films, including Win Win, Up in the Air and Flags of Our Fathers. As a result, she’s woefully underrated as an actress, for her work in Hello I Must Be Going is subtle and tender.
Devastated by her recent divorce, Amy (Lynskey) moves back into her parents’ suburban Connecticut home. She’s left everything behind—her photo negatives, her clothes, her alimony—and so depends entirely on them as if she were a kid again. She hasn’t left the house—or changed her red T-shirt—for three months, sleeping late after staying up late watching Marx Brothers movies. (The song for which the film is named was made famous by Groucho in Animal Crackers.)
Dad Stan (John Rubinstein) is supportive, but Mom Ruth (Blythe Danner) wants her to shape up and find something nice to wear to an important dinner party. The house is under constant renovation, her dad would like to retire, and her mom wants to take a trip around the world, but they’ve been hit hard by the recession, and her dad needs to land an important client. Their situation not only ratchets up the tension for what happens next but adds layers of human experience, revealing a poignant shift in perspective in the film’s coda. As peevish as Ruth is, Danner infuses her with plucky pathos that ends Hello on this revelatory note.
At the dinner, Amy meets Jeremy (Christopher Abbott), the stepson of her dad’s prospect and soon embarks on an ill-advised affair with the 19-year-old actor. Because her dad needs his stepdad as a client—and because it’s fun—they sneak around, and the electronic bell on her parents’ front gate becomes the bane of her existence.
Although just 94 minutes, Hello starts to drag. As sweet and sympathetic as Lynskey plays Amy, there’s only so much moping about one can take before starting to wonder where it’s going. But just then, Amy herself wails, “Where’s the f—king bottom!” Turns out she hasn’t quite hit it, but it doesn’t take much longer for her to turn things around in an epiphany that’s natural and credible.
Meanwhile, screenwriter Sarah Koskoff and director Todd Louiso fold into this reinvigorating but ultimately untenable romance more complex themes about love and marriage and how even seemingly loving marriages can subsume the hopes and dreams of the individuals in them.
Director: Todd Louiso
Writer: Sarah Koskoff
Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubenstein, Julie White
Release Date: Sept. 7, 2012