Stand-up comic Iliza Shlesinger has starred in a handful of romantic comedies over the last few years. Still, she’s leading the charge in Good on Paper, a rom-com directed by Kim Gatewood with a dark twist and apparently based on a “mostly” true story. The film combines bits of Shlesinger’s stand-up comedy, retelling this strange event as she begins to unravel the mystery behind her newfound boyfriend, who seems too good to be true.
Iliza Shlesinger plays a version of herself in Andrea, a successful comic who is not fully satisfied with her life. Failed auditions after failed auditions have her reexamining what it means to be happy. After years of putting her career first, she gives Dennis a chance; an unassuming and polite self-proclaimed hedgefund guy who crosses her path in an airport. I don’t know about you, but Ryan Hansen’s Dennis is a white pantsuit away from channeling Christian Bale’s American Psycho.
He’s charming, there’s no doubt, and soon has Andrea’s attention and her time. The two hit it off and coincidentally end up sitting next to each other on the flight — a detail the movie clumsily explains later. I like how their relationship is first a friendship before it morphs into madness; he’s always there for her beck and call, they share stories and support each other emotionally. He seems perfect. It’s not until he officially asks her out that his stories begin to unravel, and that’s where Good on Paper escapes the rom-com dullness of it’s first-half and gives us something to look forward to.
It almost turns into a quirky detective story when Andrea enlists the help of her witty friend Margo (Margaret Cho) as they try to pick up the pieces and uncover his treacherous lies. I can tell they had a blast together making this movie, but much of their dialogue felt stilted and forced. It sometimes sounds like they’re just reading their comic bits that didn’t make the cut, and there was no flow or timing with the humor. When the comedy doesn’t feel forced, Iliza does a worthwhile job of carrying the film, and she’s somewhat likable in the role. Iliza Shlesinger also wrote Good on Paper, and you can tell she is trying to amplify a more important message here about female intuition and the struggle of relationships.
In Good on Paper, she meets a man who — unbeknownst to her — has lied to her from the minute they made eye contact, but she wanted to believe so bad in him that she wistfully ignored her gut scoffed at Margo’s early suspicions. As it turns out, Dennis is a perpetual liar, and he reeled her in with stories of Yale and Hedge funds, none of which were true. It’s pretty remarkable how far he was willing to take this long-con, even as far as asking her to marry him after weeks and weeks of softening her up with teary-eyed anecdotes of his fictitious cancer-stricken mother. There’s even a scene where she questions what his endgame is, and to be honest, I’m curious myself how he was going to pull this off. It’s the ultimate catfish, or as Margo likes to call him, “cuttlefish,” in one of the more humorous scenes in the film.
Despite an undercooked third act and some long stretches of unfunny riffs, Good on Paper finds a way to keep you engaged throughout the film’s 90-minute runtime. Iliza Shlesinger’s chemistry with Ryan Hensen is wildly awkward and funny; her take on body shaming and his body, in particular, was absolutely hysterical. Unraveling his true personality was also a fun plotline for the film and served the comedy well as you dig deeper into his home life. The film is surprisingly a cut above the rest when it comes to a cheesy rom-com; it cuts a little deeper as it briefly examines what our lies reveal about ourselves and who we want to be. Sure, we’ve all lied in our relationships at some point, but Dennis takes it to a whole other level, and it is satisfying as hell to watch him collapse in his duplicitousness.
Good on Paper is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.
Despite an undercooked third act and some long stretches of unfunny riffs, Good on Paper finds a way to keep you engaged throughout the film’s 90-minute runtime. Iliza Shlesinger’s chemistry with Ryan Hensen is wildly awkward and funny; her take on body shaming and his body, in particular, was absolutely hysterical.