It’s amazing how well the title “Good on Paper” fits this new Netflix comedy from first time director Kimmy Gatewood. The film is written by and stars stand-up comic Iliza Shlesinger who has the big personality and snappy wit you often look for in good comedies. But “Good on Paper” is exactly that – an idea for a movie that probably sounded great during conception but that falls apart on screen. It’s a shame because it begins with a fair amount of promise.
Shlesinger plays Andrea Singer, a fairly successful stand-up comic trying to break into acting but getting nothing but rejection from her countless auditions. On a flight back to Los Angeles she meets Dennis (a hunky Ryan Hansen sporting nerdy glasses and a bad comb-over in an effort to make him look homely). He comes packaged with some pretty attractive qualities. He’s a Yale graduate, has a high-paying job as a hedge fund manager, and owns a big house in Beverly Hills. The two instantly hit it off and begin spending a lot of time together in LA.
It doesn’t take long for us to notice that Dennis is clearly smitten, but to Andrea their relationship is purely platonic. Of course the more they’re together the closer they become and the awkward yet inevitable romance blossoms. But to the film’s credit this isn’t a prototypical romantic comedy. And as the two friends slowly morph into a couple, Andrea begins noticing cracks in Dennis’ story. Is he really who he says he is? Did he really go to Yale? Does his mother have cancer? Did he ever really have a supermodel girlfriend?
Then the movie starts to fall apart. Andrea’s state of oblivion is mind-boggling which does no favors to the character. We can certainly see enough to figure things out. Even the suspicions of her best friend Margot, a brash stock character of a sidekick played by Margaret Cho, falls on deaf ears. By the time it all finally comes to a head the story has completely unraveled into a weirdly out-of-tune mess that doesn’t seem sure of what it wants to be. And the final act is painful to sit through, taking several wacky turns, throwing out some jarringly unnatural dialogue, and giving us some cringe-soaked scenes that resemble really bad sketch routines.
By the end it’s really hard to buy into anything “Good on Paper” is selling. Outside of the first 30 minutes, nothing about the film feels remotely authentic from its flaky characters to the unconvincing relationships. And while it tries, the movie has nothing especially meaningful to say about single life or dating. I ended up unsure of what the movie was other than a showcase for Shlesinger who certainly has the comedic chops. She just may want someone else to write the material next time around. “Good on Paper” is now streaming on Netflix.