PARK CITY - It may be time to seriously take a look at the creative process of the Sundance Institute's Sundance Lab. Originally founded to help foster new screenwriters and directos trying to develop independent features, it has also become a major source for films debuting at the festival over the past 10 years (a not unexpected byproduct). Sometimes, that allows features such as Dee Rees' "Pariah" to find an audience, but other times it seems to create a homogenized product of recognizable indie film themes and story lines. One of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's four debuts tonight, "Hello I Must Be Going," unfortunately falls into the latter category.
Director Todd Louiso
, who is also known for his acting roles in films such as "Jerry Maguire" and " High Fidelity," made his feature film debut at Sundance 10 years ago with the Philip Seymour Hoffman dramedy "Love Liza." He then had a massive misfire with the Paramount Vantage title "The Marc Pease Experience" which finally was dumped in 2009. Now, he returns to Park City with "Going," a dramedy about a thirty something woman, Amy (Melanie Lynskey
), who is trying to recover from a painful divorce while staying at her parent's impressive mansion, er, home in Bridgeport, CT. The picture is the first produced screenplay for Sarah Koskoff, a longtime collaborator of Louiso's, and according to Festival Director John Cooper's opening remarks, it was developed at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.
It takes quite awhile for the audience to find out what Amy's life was like before her New York husband divorced her which is something of a problem because she mostly seems like a dysfunctional ghost. Lynskey has been fantastic recently in "Win Win," "The Informant" and "Up in the Air," but "Going" spends so much time initially having fun with Amy's obsessive and meddling mother Ruth (a going for it Blythe Danner
) and her overly concerned family members including a dad who constantly comes to sit on her bed with sage advice (John Rubinstein
) that she's the one seemingly dragging the story down. Additionally, the more you learn about Amy's life the harder it is to believe Lynskey as the character. It's only when newcomer Christopher Abbott
(the upcoming HBO series "Girls") comes on screen as 19-year-old love interest Jeremy that the film even starts to get interesting.
While the cougar-esque storyline is doomed to fail, Abbot makes you believe Jeremy's affections for Amy are genuine and his youthful charisma's is a nice counterpoint to the more established actors onscreen. And for a good 20 minutes or so, Amy's romantic blossoming and some hilarious scenes with Jeremy's mom (a fantastic Julie White
) allows the film to find an entertaining rhythm. Unfortunately, Louiso and Kaskoff feel the need to wrap up every one of the film's story lines with a bow and "Going" just putters awkwardly to the finish line. The movie's characters would have been much better served by leaving some of the story's secondary conflicts open to the audience's imagination.
Three films in, its also hard to determine Louiso's voice as a filmmaker. At times "Going" feels like it could have been directed by Rodrigo Garcia, Nicole Holofcener or Miguel Arteta or someone trying to emulate their styles. Other times it "Going" seems as though it could have been directed by a random indie director and no, that's not a compliment.
Cinematographer Julie Kirkwood shows some talent giving the picture a grittier look than the material necessarily required. On the other hand, the film suffers from a seemingly never ending rotation of indie music song cliches. You can't recognize them and they are no doubt original, but boy they sure sound familiar.
As for acquisition potential, "Gone" isn't commercially friendly enough for a mini-major and likely in the IFC Films or Magnolia Films category.
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