By Lynn Venhaus
After years of putting her career first, a stand-up comic meets a guy who seems perfect: smart, nice, successful. Could he possibly be too good to be true?.
In the pantheon of all-time bad romances, comedian Iliza Shlesinger has a doozy to share. And as artists like to do, she has mined what happened to her for laughs.
The very funny lady is the only woman and youngest contestant, at age 25, to win NBC’s reality-competition show “Last Comic Standing,” in 2008, Since then, she has been a game show host, written comedy specials and acted in TV shows and movies, including last year’s “Spenser Confidential” and “Pieces of a Woman.”
In “Good on Paper,” she plays someone closest to resembling herself: Andrea, a comic who has focused on her career. The narrative is edited to include parts of her stand-up act, but as the character, working the comedy clubs.
Living in Los Angeles, she is auditioning for film and television roles but not having much luck and is getting angsty. She meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen) at the airport, and coincidentally, he sits next to her on the flight back home. Soon, he has ingratiated himself into her life.
Dennis, while not exactly her type physically, seems attentive and always there for her. He is a bit dorky but appears to talk a good game. He said he is in hedge fund management, a Yale graduate and recently bought a house in Beverly Hills. None of that is true – and in fact, most everything he says is a lie.
When she finds herself ‘catfished’ – or in her words, ‘cuddlefished,’ and everything starts to unravel, she and her pal, bar owner Margot, wonderfully played by comedian Margaret Cho, focus on a mission to expose his deceit.
The movie gets a bit wobbly in the resolution, but in the final act, there is a twist that enlivens this incredulous account up. Hansen excels at portraying a duplicitous dweeb. He’s certainly got some explaining to do.
Director Kimmy Gatewood astutely plums some indignities that women in a traditionally male-dominated field must endure. The crackerjack timing of Cho and Shlezinger helps propel the story considerably.
With her knack for recognizing universal truths among women, particularly when it comes to guys, Shlesinger has turned her painful reality into a relatable and amusing romantic comedy.
Rebecca Rittenhouse is in fine support as a lovable actress, Serrena, who is the flavor of the month with casting directors. Naturally, she drives the insecure Andrea crazy with jealousy.
While Dennis’ red flags become easy to spot, the best bits are not from his ruse – but the career hurdles Andrea faces trying to make it in showbiz. Now that would make a terrific series, like Pete Holmes did in “Crashing” on HBO.
Shlesinger, who has already proven that she is a likeable performer who has something to say, is able to showcase all her talents as a writer, stand-up comic and actress in “Good on Paper.”
“Good on Paper” is a 2021 romantic comedy based on a true story by writer Iliza Shlesinger. She stars in the film, as does Ryan Hansen, Margaret Cho and Rebecca Rittenhouse. Directed by Kimmy Gatewood, the film is rated R for language throughout, sexual references, and brief drug use and nudity, and runs 1 hour, 32 minutes. Streaming on Netflix starting June 23. Lynn’s Grade: B.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat daily newspaper. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association.