Review: ‘Good On Paper

Ryan Hansen Tricks Iliza Shlesinger And The Audience In Netflix's Dating Comedy

After a full year in quarantine, single people are ready to mingle, take advantage of a “hot girl” summer. However, some people don’t always have the best intentions. To remind us of this fact, Netflix is releasing Good On Paper, a comedy fable directed by Kimmy Gatewood and written and starring comedian Iliza Shlesinger. While the comedy does a lot of things right, like the boyfriend lurking in the shadows, this comedy isn’t as advertised. 

Based on a real boyfriend the standup actually had, Good On Paper follows Shlesinger’s Andrea who has a steady standup career while trying to break into the film and tv industry. While returning home from a gig she meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen), a nerdy, slightly schlubby guy, to who she is not sexually attracted to. However, Andrea likes him as a person and starts hanging out with him while seeing other people. That changes, however, after a drunken night out. 

Soon head over heels with “Dennis from Yale,” Andrea and her friend Margot (Margaret Cho) start to see the cracks in her perfect boyfriend. This leads our heroine on an emotional and physical goose chase around LA, to find out what things Dennis said were true and what were lies.

Shlesinger’s writing moves fast. We see Andrea say she will never be more than friends with Dennis, but in the next scene, she relents without really showing the reasoning behind her decision besides a drunken night out. The same goes for the speed of their relationship. Once she says yes, we don’t see the couple in a honeymoon period. The plot moves right along to Dennis’s cracks starting to show. While this story certainly works as a standup special (which the whole movie is framed as), the actual execution of the script doesn’t build tension or enough of an emotional connection to make Good On Paper work. 

As a leading lady though, Shlesinger hits the mark. Relatable, sexy and not too much, the comedian proves that she can handle a leading role. Up until this point, she played bit and supporting roles in films like Instant Family, Spenser Confidential, and The Opening Act. This past awards season, she surprisingly played Vanessa Kirby’s sister in the miscarriage drama Pieces Of A Woman, opposite Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, and Benny Safdie. With the right script and direction, Shlesinger has real leading lady potential and it is a testament to her raw talent that she found the charm in a less than stellar movie. 

Playing against type is Ryan Hansen, best known for playing douchey, bro guys like Dick Casablancas in Veronica Mars. He does the job the first part of the movie, playing a “sweet guy,” happy and in love. He even handles the lead up to the reveal really well, subtly dropping hints in his performance. Once the truth drops in the third act, he morphs into a cartoon villain, ala Promising Young Woman. The acting choice doesn’t fit the tone of the film and makes the ending feel off.

Like most things in life, this movie needed more Margaret Cho. The chemistry between her and Shlesinger was electric the few moments they had together. Maybe if her character had a larger role and the focus shifted slightly on their character’s friendship, there would have been an emotional payoff. 

Overall, Good On Paper seems like it would be a laugh-out-loud, girl power-infused, feminist morality tale. In reality, the film tries its best with what it has, but with a jumbled script and a lousy third act, Good On Paper is not what it could be. Watch the trailer below.

Good On Paper is available now on Netflix.

'Good On Paper'
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
review-good-on-paper'Good On Paper' shows real promise with its cast but lacks the script and emotional depth to handle this controversial topic