When love goes awry

Netflix original Good On Paper misses the mark in presenting a rom-com about dating nightmares with a unique comedic twist

Ryan Hansen as Dennis Kelly and Iliza Shlesinger as Andrea Singer. (Photo: NETFLIX)

Despite being promoted as a romantic comedy, Good On Paper has something more to offer by providing a fresh look at the reality of dating and expectations in modern relationships. So if you're expecting laughs and a heartwarming love story, this might not be a movie for you. Good On Paper is the debut effort of Kimmy Gatewood and features American actress Iliza Shlesinger as the lead scriptwriter and you can instantly tell she had a big hand in the way this movie turned out, with parts of the script based loosely on her real-life experiences.

Shlesinger plays Andrea Singer, a 34-year-old comedian/actor who has spent years putting her career ahead of her love life. That is until she accidentally stumbles upon Dennis (Ryan Hansen), a quirky nerd with charm, who coaxes her into letting her guard down and the two end up becoming romantically involved. However, Andrea's best friend Margo senses something off about Dennis and urges Andrea to embark on a mission to uncover who Dennis really is.

The set-up of this movie reminded me of The Big Sick (2017) with Kumail Nanjiani, where we have a comedian narrating parts of the plot which is interspersed within some stand-up comedy moments. While there's nothing special about the cinematography, each character in this film is well-developed and engaging. Hansen does a convincing job at creating characters that appear to be transparent. Margaret Cho and Rebecca Rittenhouse co-star in this film and they each bring comedy to the screen. They're both abrasive at points but also charming every time they're on screen.

I personally have never seen a Shlesinger performance before but she does a good job here as Andrea, a character who is fun and endearing but has developed self-doubt in her mid-30s. She struggles with the messages she receives from the world about how she should just be grateful to have a man that likes her. However, I wish the film would give us more details about her character. She is an aspiring actress who's trying to get the lead part in a TV show and we see her going through the whole audition process. While it is interesting to see, the movie doesn't focus on that aspect of her character enough as I would have liked.

Much like The Big Sick, I liked the mix of storytelling and stand-up comedy in this film. It's as if we're getting insight into Shlesinger's real-life relationships. As these issues are being raised, Andrea's standup routines also show us how unhealthy it can be as we get an insight into her experiences through performances in front of an audience. Good On Paper also brings up social values and the differences of expectations between both genders. Andrea has a monologue in the film about how women are more than what they're supposed to be in relationships, how people perceive them, and how they can act without forcing the feminist political agenda. So I did appreciate that the film was trying to tackle some of those themes or at least try to bring them up.

While Good On Paper has its charms, some of the script, especially in the last bit, was unable to find its footing and I'm disappointed with how the movie wrapped in a half-hearted and unsatisfying fashion. As the story progressed, I kept hoping for some kind of clever twist that would reveal something new or unique about the story but what we get is a semi-depressing view on relationships that ends up being a payback story that runs out of fuel. That was a bummer because this movie has the potential to be a very good comedy and drama with an original story. Perhaps next time, Shlesinger should consider getting herself a co-writer to help with polishing the scripts. Nevertheless, I'd recommend giving this film a try if you're able to manage your expectations. However, don't watch it if you're expecting a typical rom-com.

  • Good On Paper
  • Starring Iliza Shlesinger, Ryan Hansen, Margaret Cho, Rebecca Rittenhouse
  • Directed by Kimmy Gatewood
  • Now streaming on Netflix