GOOD ON PAPER. I usually don't like it when comedians make movies because they're seldom as funny as their stand-up routines. I get that they want to break out of the boxes we have put them in (or they have put themselves in) but it's never the same. Still, Iliza Shleslinger is by far one of my favorite stand-up comedians so when I saw she had put out a movie with stand-up royalty Margaret Cho (Hysterical, 2021), I eagerly pressed play.
Iliza Shleslinger stars as stand-up comedian Andrea Singer, who accidentally meets the "perfect guy." Along with her alarm bells, Andrea ignores warnings from her friend Margot (played by the forever wonderful Cho), who is convinced he's not all sunshine and roses. Is she right? So begins their investigation.
Directed by Kimmy Gatewood, whose directorial resume includes episodes of Girls5eva and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and written by Shlesinger, this gal-pal romp is fast-paced, entertaining and slightly clever. I say slightly because Shlesinger seems to be holding back her smarts as if she's trying to make the movie enjoyable for everyone and not go over people's heads, as she sometimes does. Still, Shlesinger delivers with the animated storytelling that sucks you right in during her stand-up.
Like so many Netflix productions, Good on Paper is lightly narrated — it's done so much, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's as if directors think the audience's attention span is so short they have to be talked to the whole time, lest they lose interest. But the comedy duo at the center of the film make it doable, delivering laughs with Ryan Hansen (Fantasy Island, 2020), a guy who looks a lot like the Bradley Cooper in the Hangover movies.
But this is about Shlesinger and Cho, whose comedic pairing is perfect. Both are lightly raunchy (or heavily, depending on how you were raised) with a feminist point of view. They hold nothing back when attacking men (verbally) and will make you laugh until you cry. Cho is one of the original female comedians doing her own thing fearlessly, not afraid others may think her a vulgar, outspoken woman, and Shlesinger is continuing that tradition, so no wonder they made a movie together. Kudos.
Despite all the funny moments, Good on Paper did have the usual rom-com lull with a roll-your-eyes moment in its second half. Most movies in the genre have that moment within the first 30 minutes, though, and the lull was over quickly and I found myself getting emotionally involved again.
Voice-overs aside, one good thing I will say about Netflix movies is they keep smaller-profile actors employed. The great show GLOW, which was based off the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in the '80s and lasted for a few seasons, has sadly run its course. One of my favorite characters was Carmen, the big Samoan wrestler played by Britney Young. It was a nice surprise to see her in this movie, scoring a small role with a mainstream comedian is huge, as women who look like her (large and of color) are often forgotten and tossed to the side once they no longer serve their purpose as a stock character.
Good on Paper confirms what we knew all along: Shlesinger is funny a.f. And it delivers for those of us who miss seeing good female comics and can stomach a little man bashing. I also recommend checking out Shlesinger's four stand-up specials on Netflix and adding Cho's documentary about female comics, Hysterical, to your Hulu/FX queue. It gives nonstop laughter and real insight into how it is for women in the comedy industry. No lulls. R. 92M. NETFLIX.
Nadia Duerson (she/her) is an author and freelance writer based in Humboldt.
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