**1/2 (out of four)
The weaker of this week’s stories about a small romantic fling bridging a large age difference (see “Liberal Arts” instead), “Hello I Must Be Going” serves primarily as an acting showcase for Melanie Lynskey (“Up in the Air”) and Christopher Abbott (“Girls”). They’re good; the movie’s a few steps down from there.
In in her mid-30s, Amy (Lynskey) is professionally and personally aimless a few miserable months removed from her divorce. Jeremy’s (Abbott) a 19-year-old actor who allows his mom to think he’s gay, since she gets so much satisfaction out of being supportive. The connection Amy and Jeremy establish never convinces. They may relate to each other’s embarrassment at having family members who speak for them, but he’s oddly enamored by someone so clearly struggling to keep it together. Meanwhile, Amy’s vague recognition of the age gap feels insincere, perhaps because first-time writer Sarah Koskoff fumbles with how to articulate that distance. Compared to the complicated relationship between 35-year-old Jesse (Josh Radnor) and 19-year-old Zibby in “Liberal Arts,” Jeremy and Amy immediately look like two people delaying the inevitability that their relationship won’t last.
Still, “Hello” represents a big step up for director Todd Louiso after 2009’s excruciating “The Marc Pease Experience.” Nice performances balance out predictable/forced scenes of continually puking in the car or being caught while skinny dipping/having sex, etc. The most searing moments, as is often the case, are the minor ones. Amy tells a smug former high school classmate that she’s still friends with her ex, and the old acquaintance notes how nice that is. Adds Amy: “If only it were true.” You know you’re in trouble when you don’t even believe your own lies.
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