Good on Paper finds some laughs with Iliza Shlesinger and her wild dating story but can’t find the rhythm or relatability to make an impact.
This review of the Netflix film Good on Paper does not contain spoilers.
Good on Paper, from writer/comedian Iliza Shlesinger and director Kimmy Gatewood, sees Netflix once again attempting to figure out the romantic comedy. Even with a new-ish take on the genre, the film, starring Shlesinger and Ryan Hansen, struggles to avoid the clichés it’s trying to skirt. Based on Shlesinger’s real experiences, Good on Paper follows the relationship between Andrea (Shlesinger), a somewhat successful comedian, and Dennis (Hansen).
After meeting on the plane, Andrea and Dennis become quick friends as he worms his way into her life. He’s successful as a hedge fund manager, graduated from Yale, and just bought a house in Beverly Hills, and even though Andrea isn’t initially attracted to him, that changes within a few months. And of course, this isn’t the whole truth, or even a part of the truth, as Dennis’s lies and manipulations become Andrea’s worst nightmare.
For most of Good on Paper, you can see the beats of a classic rom-com. Andrea and Dennis have fun together, and he’s kind and caring to her, so what’s the problem? Well, in the case of this relationship, everything’s built on falsehoods, and Shlesinger’s film hopes to both poke fun at this story, one that the comedian has been telling for the last half-decade during her sets, and also find some kernel of universality in the realm of modern dating.
And for lots of people, that commonality comes in the form of expectations and presentation. When starting a new relationship, either in friendship or romance, we all have expectations and assumptions about what the other person wants, thinks, and feels. We present ourselves in the best possible way, and some of us might fudge the facts a bit, shifting our growings-up, our hobbies, our passions to better fit next to the person who’s across the table. Shlesinger’s story can’t find the laughs, though, or the emotional beats necessary to be put in the canon of rom-coms, or even the streaming lexicon, failing to hit the heights of recent films like Set It Up or Plus One.
Shlesinger and Hansen make a fine comedic team, balancing one another in both mood and development. They play well off each other, creating laughs due to the absurdity and clear uncertainty of the situation, not necessarily cracking knee-slappers. Instead, they’re constantly winking at the audience, saying, “Isn’t this wild?” To be fair, it is, but the unhinged nature of their relationship and Dennis’s mountain of falsehoods doesn’t equate to a compelling film. It might keep your attention, but it won’t stick into a corner of your mind. It’ll just waft over you, almost like a song playing in the background, one that seems fine for the situation, and if you’re looking for a decent rom-com with some solid actors, Good on Paper will do the job.
But Shlesinger’s script cannot match the evil yet victim-riddled energy of this man with an emotional payoff. The stars perform with spirit, and Rebecca Rittenhouse and Margaret Cho add in energy, but the entire effort falls flat without necessary originality, even if it’s based on a true story.