Review: 'Good on Paper' fails its characters and its audience

Netflix romantic comedy hangs on a paper-thin premise that collapses long before filmmakers realize.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

"Good on Paper" looks bad everywhere else.

Stand-up comic Iliza Shlesinger stars as Andrea Singer, a stand-up comic who wants to be an actress. Hmm. She meets a man who seems to have it all — a Yale education, a high-paying job at a hedge fund, a home in Beverly Hills — but is he really everything he says he is? And does it really take her the majority of the movie to find out?

Ryan Hansen and Iliza Schlesinger in "Good on Paper."

The man is Dennis, played by "Veronica Mars'" and "Party Down's" Ryan Hansen, whose himbo charms are usually welcome in small doses. Here he's outfitted with a bad haircut, capped teeth and a dorky persona that for most in movieland would be an immediate turn off. For Andrea, who is tired of the Los Angeles dating scene, they're out-of-the-ordinary pluses.  

But the red flags start mounting when his credit card starts getting declined, his living situation is sniffed out and he gets caught in a trap of his own lies. It's not surprising that Dennis might not be all he's cracked up to be. What's surprising is the is-he-or-isn't-he revelation forms the crux of the film, and "Good on Paper" doesn't do anything to twist the turns that viewers can spot well before the characters. 

"Good on Paper" could have made astute observations about dating life, the lies we tell when trying to present our best selves and what happens when those walls fall down; Shlesinger's comedy is certainly sharp enough to make those points. Instead, "Good on Paper's" paper-thin premise makes suckers out of its characters, and in turn even bigger suckers of its audience. A late-movie courtroom sequence shows even Shlesinger (who wrote the screenplay) didn't know how to wrap this thing up. As a stand-up routine it may have worked, but some material is best left to the stage. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Good on Paper'

GRADE: D+

Not rated: for language throughout, sexual references, and brief drug use and nudity

Running time: 94 minutes

On Netflix