Movie Review: “Mr. Roosevelt,” Funnier than a Dead Cat comedy has a Right to Be

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Emily has that “quirky girl vibe” going. She knows it. And she resents it.

Because even though she’s a comedienne, gamely having a go at sketch comedy/conceptual comedy in Los Angeles, she knows her place on the pecking order.

“A comedian is a less attractive version of an actress,” in LA. Her auditions — sprawling conceptual leaps or strained impersonations — are usually played to producers and directors who can’t be bothered to look up from their phones long enough to see what she has to offer.

At least she’s got Youtube fame — little bizarre bits that douse her in spaghetti. If only she’d figured out a way to monetize her millions of hits/thousands of followers.

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At least, back in Austin, she was loved — by her cat, and by the ex who got the cat when she ran off seeking fame and fortune and broke up with by phone.

“Mr. Roosevelt” is the comedy writer-director-star Noël Wells named after that cat, whose impending death sends her dashing, flat-broke, back to see him off, back into the welcoming arms of Eric (Nick Thune), her beloved musician beau, who surely must be pining away, awaiting her return.

Only he’s moved on. He’s given up the music thing and is diving into real estate, at the behest of his tech savvy/smart and settled new live-in love, Celeste (Britt Lower, superb at playing the adult in the room). Wells lets us see, in a flash, what Emily sees. That the new love is better than Emily. Better organized, better motivated, more thoughtful…better looking.

But one thing Emily won’t stand for is “better at mourning.” Because Celeste and Eric, who put Emily up while she’s there coping with this loss, loved that cat, too. Any hint they loved him more will lead to trouble.

Which it does.

Wells (“Saturday Night Live,””Master of None”) scripts a comic’s mid-shelf-life crisis like few others, a woman who’s still too girlish to take seriously, who can’t find her way to success because she won’t grow up, cannot get a break and will not take good advice.

That Youtube fame is money in the bank. People keep recognizing Emily all over Austin, still hip all these decades after “Slacker.” And she’s too caught up competing with Celeste, ruining a wake for the cat, creating “scenes” wherever they go together, throwing herself at Eric and falling into bed with randoms to see it.

She’s also only starting to realize that Austin might be her first, best destiny. She fit in there, where young, talented and ambitious people can become your best friend (waitress/drummer Jen is played by the earthy, vivacious Daniella Pineda), where “quirky” has a home.

The situations are conventional, but what Wells brings to them is an earnest, shrill cluelessness, a refusal to NOT get into debates with the rational, kind and indulgent (not quite patronizing) Celeste, or the man Celeste is nudging toward adulthood and away from Emily.

“Mr. Roosevelt” isn’t a laugh right. “Quirky” pops to mind a lot more often than is healthy for a movie grasping for our love. But it is funny enough, and alternately sweet and caustic as it depicts, in quick sketches and sharp observances, the LA of our nightmarish ambitions and the Austin of our hip, homey fantasies.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, with nudity, adult situations, profanity

Cast: Noël Wells, Nick Thune, Britt Lower, Daniella Pineda

Credits:Written and directed by Noël Wells. A Paladin release.

Running time: 1:30

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