Review by Sean Boelman
Comedian Iliza Shlesinger gets her first big screen starring role in the unorthodox romantic comedy Good on Paper, which she also wrote herself. Darkly funny and not entirely predictable, Shlesinger offers a refreshingly unique spin on a genre that benefits greatly from her comedic voice.
The film follows a stand-up comedian who begins to suspect that the seemingly perfect guy she met may actually be too good to be true. Ironically, the premise doesn’t sound very good on paper but is much better in execution, as it sets up the tropes in the first act only to demolish them in the remainder of the movie.
For much of the first half of the film, it’s a slightly cutesy romantic comedy, although it clearly feels as if there is something awry. Although the movie never goes as far off the rails as one would hope, it’s also a lot more ambitious and daring than a majority of films in the genre, and it will catch viewers off guard more than once.
The framing device of the movie, a comedian telling this story as a part of a stand-up routine, is effective but underutilized. The film easily could have thrown in an unreliable narrator element, which would have allowed the movie to stand out even more within the genre. But thankfully the film still has plenty of laughs to offer.
Shelsinger finds a good balance between embracing and subverting archetypes in her script. Although the supporting characters do seem a bit conventional at times, there are plenty of moments in which she plays with the audience’s expectations to create an emotional beat that is unexpectedly very genuine.
The acting in the movie is also very strong. Shlesinger is a charming leading lady, and obviously she connects with the material well because she wrote it herself (and it was partially inspired by some of her own experiences). Ryan Hansen is great in his role as the love interest, absolutely nailing the different sides of the character.
From a technical standpoint, the film is about as one would expect of a mid-budget romantic comedy. It’s generally oversaturated and artificial, but not in a way that is exaggerated enough to be tongue-in-cheek. But there’s no surprise that the movie’s style is attractive people doing attractive things attractively.
Good on Paper is a genuinely good romantic comedy, keeping viewers on their toes even when it does play it a bit on the safe side. For her first real step up to the plate, Iliza Shlesinger was able to go to bat pretty well.
Good on Paper streams on Netflix beginning June 23.