Good on Paper (2021)

“It’s a long con.”

What I imagine would be a far more interesting stand up bit or podcast story than it ever is as an actual film, Good on Paper is nonetheless a competently crafted and personally told movie tailor made for a Netflix release, even if it doesn’t quite have that much personality or rhythm to its formulaic telling. The film makes good points, challenging us to think about how and why women are more drawn to kindness and intelligence while most men have an appetite for physical beauty, and it doesn’t deliver easy resolutions or answers to that pondering. I just really wish that it had been more enticing and more subtle, especially towards the conclusion.

Written by Iliza Schlesinger, the comedian essentially plays herself from start to finish, letting us know for certain that these mostly true events based on a lie really did happen to her. She is Andrea, a mid 30’s comic who is successful enough to book headlining gigs and fly first class but has yet to transition towards the acting career she aspires to one day have. Auditions never go well, and her younger competition in Serrena (Rebecca Rittenhouse) always seems to be up for all of the same parts. She even has a billboard that Andrea imagines her face being pasted on one day. Andrea is spiteful and envious.

This is where Dennis (Ryan Hansen) enters the stagnant picture in timely fashion. He comes across Andrea in the airport, they sit together and talk the entire flight, it all seems too serendipitous for its own good. He’s a man of ambiguity, always dressed in a suit and tie for his job in hedge funds, and somehow seems to have the perfect response to everything. Dennis is clumsy, a functioning alcoholic, a bit out of shape, and the last guy Andrea would actively choose to date. But they’re inseparable most days, and his hearty patience eventually pays off to go from friend to boyfriend. Andrea is convinced he’s the good and thoughtful guy he’s billed himself as. Margot (Margaret Cho), her bar owner bestie, remains a rightful skeptic. She sees the holes in the charade.

Good on Paper is just missing a sense of spirit and character. It feels and literally looks so aseptic and dry visually, and while I’m sure it’s at least partially honest, the final third simply does not play out as true or authentic. It seems manufactured for a moment, like a long overdue punchline to a stand up bit that’s been overworked and hit over the head to the point of concussed confusion, and the story never justifies why it should be a film instead of an orated cautionary tale too many women have lived. Iliza Schlesinger has never directed before, but I wonder what Good on Paper might’ve been like if she was in full command of her experience both on screen and off. I imagine it would’ve been more honest and less uneven.

“That’s my story. That’s my time.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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