Good on Paper (2021)

Good on Paper
Director: Kimmy Gatewood
Writer: Iliza Shlesinger
Cast: Iliza Shlesinger, Margaret Cho, Ryan Hansen, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Matt McGorry, Rebecca Delgado Smith, Beth Dover, Kimia Behpoornia
Seen on: 4.9.2021

Content Note: fatmisia, abusive relationship, (critical treatment of) misogyny

Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger) is a stand-up comedian who has been making good progress with her career, although the big break-through is still missing and she would like to get an acting role to hit it big, finally. With working on her career, her romantic life has taken a back-seat. And this doesn’t change when she meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen) on a plane, although they immediately get to talking. Dennis is a great guy, though, and they start hanging out a lot – as friends. After a while, though, things do take a turn for the romantic. At the same time, Andrea starts to question what Dennis told her about himself.

Good on Paper has some funny moments, but it didn’t really draw me in. It was entertaining enough, but it just wasn’t great.

The film poster showing Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger) looking sceptical as Dennis (Ryan Hansen) holds on to her, smiling widely.

It is not unusual that a comedy or a stand-up has jokes that don’t work for me. I doubt that there is a show where 100% of jokes work for anyone. So, it’s not surprising that some of the jokes here fall flat, and it didn’t bother me much. There is just one particular scene that is damn fatmisic that I can’t forgive the film: when Andrea says that she just didn’t find Dennis attractive at all, we see him take off his shirt and a (slightly) fat body double for Hansen. Of course, the film seems to say, how could you find somebody attractive when they’re fat? Impossible.

This take is particularly egregious in a film that otherwise comes with a solid feminist baseline. Shouldn’t the feminist basics include “no body shaming”? In fact there are a couple of moments where the film seems to throw (feminist) principles over board to crack a joke and that’s just plain unnecessary.

Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger) and Dennis (Ryan Hansen) talking on the plane.

What the film does well is show that even smart, pretty, no-bullshit women like Andrea can fall for bad guys and find themselves trapped in a relationship, even despite their friends’ warnings. I’m a little torn because Dennis’ bullshitting is so obvious, and could have been a little more insidious, but at the same time, problems are so often obvious from the outside, and much harder to see on the inside. And we are experiencing the film along with Andrea after all.

So, I did take some exception to the film, but it did make me laugh, too. I liked that Andrea gets to be abrasive, I liked that it tackles that kind of manipulative relationship in the first place, and that it exposes the misogyny behind it without flinching from it. But I remained at a distance from a film that I just couldn’t seem to warm to.

Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger), Serrena (Rebecca Rittenhouse) and Margot (Margaret Cho) in a car, staking something out.

Summarizing: not bad, but not great, either.

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