Comic, writer and actress Iliza Shlesinger once was sued for turning away men at a show she’d labeled and limited to “for women only.”
So we know where she’s coming from, playing a stand-up who finally gets that TV deal but finds herself dating a fellow who lies about every important personal detail of his life. I mean, he looked “Good on Paper,” right?
The film, which she wrote and stars in, wrings a few laughs out of that idea (You’ll remember a “Seinfeld” episode along a similar line.) and a few more out of teaming her with fellow-comic Margaret Cho, who plays her smart-mouthed best friend.
And as the story of “how we met” and all the “signs” that Dennis (Ryan Hansen) isn’t all he’s passing himself off to be, we get snarky/smirky voice-over commentary, and bits of a stand-up act in which her character tells the story of this debacle, and comments on it.
If that sounds like “Seinfeld,” too, well…
Andrea (Shlesinger) is a comic who can’t get out of her own way, commenting on and comically “correcting” scripts she’s auditioning for, 34 and hitting multiple comedy clubs a night because she’s not yet scored every stand-up/would-be-actress’s dream, an LA sitcom deal.
Then dorky “not physically-attracted to him at all” Dennis stumbles into her at the airport and sits next to her on the plane. And here’s what she notices. The “not physically-attracted” thing. He drinks. A lot. But he’s “smart,” attentive and “charming.”
Here’s what he expects her to notice. He’s a hedge fund manager. He went to Yale. He’s just bought a house in Beverly Hills. He’s dating a “model” named Cassandra. The fact that he squeezes these factoids into their first-ever conversation should tell her something, but no.
She talks about her new “friend” constantly, introduces him to her BFF Margot (Cho), they all hang. And something else…develops.
She’s taken Margot’s advice, “Stop being so salty about all the things coming your way,” she figures. She’s still got her nemesis, the successful actress Serrena (Rebecca Rittenhouse) who started at exactly the same time as her, and has “made it” and is on billboards for her new movie all over town. She’s getting closer to her own “break.” And without really knowing how it happened (alcohol), she’s got a “boyfriend,” too.
It’s just that he’s secretive, glib and vague, with all these life details missing from her knowledge of who he “really” is.
“Good on Paper,” like the just-released horror comedy “Too Late,” does a good job immersing us in a comic’s life. We don’t see Andrea writing down funny lines, but we hear her saying them and thinking that she should write them down. We get a good taste of her act, and unlike in “Too Late,” the lead here has the confidence that creates stage presence, thus she’s perfectly credible at something Shlesinger actually does — stand-up comedy.
Hansen is amusing, in that obvious poseur way, selling lines like “Let’s just say I won’t be shopping at Cartier’s again,” or trying to.
The “story” here is what’s lacking, and it goes from bad to courtroom “worse.” And then there’s that amorphous and unamusingly unrelatable over-riding “complaint” — “having it all and wishing there was more” — that doesn’t invite anybody in.
Not enough laugh-lines land, and those that do are mostly exchanges between Shlesinger’s Andrea and Cho’s Margot, a lesbian bar owner who’s always on the make.
“Why can’t you stalk her on Instagram like a NORMAL person?”
It plays like a long TV sitcom pilot, an only modestly promising one. And yes, that’s also “just like ‘Seinfeld.'”
A few laughs, plenty of (intentional) cringes, and one can’t help but notice that “Good on Paper” is about all the endorsement this one deserves.
MPA Rating: R for language throughout, sexual references, and brief drug use and nudity
Cast: Iliza Shlesinger, Ryan Hansen, Rebecca Rittenhouse and Margaret Cho
Credits: Directed by Kimmy Gatewood, script by Iliza Shlesinger. A Universal film on Netflix.
Running time: 1:34