As a teenager the New Zealand-born Melanie Lynskey came to international attention opposite an equally young and skillful Kate Winslet in the Peter Jackson true-crime drama "Heavenly Creatures."
More recently she enjoyed (at least financially) a long, steady run playing Charlie Sheen's stalker neighbor on "Two and a Half Men," and came out the other side with her comic chops in surprisingly good shape, given the material. (Actors on middling or worse series must guard very, very carefully against the erosion of their talent.)
Audiences like Lynskey. She has proven herself a strong utility infielder in such films as "Up in the Air" and "Win Win." She's a relatable, attractive goofball, without the usual model-skinny cookie-cutter body type. She indulges sometimes in a tendency toward broadness, but there's a relaxed honesty behind the eyes to go with the wide-eyed smile.
She's the whole shebang in the modest indie "Hello I Must Be Going," which premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Lynskey's Amy is an early-mid-30s-ish divorcee, fuzzy and thwarted in her outlook and experiences, who moves back in with her parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein) for a while. The town is Westport, Conn. There she meets Jeremy (Christopher Abbott of HBO's "Girls"), the 19-year-old actor son of her father's business associate. Jeremy spies a fellow disaffected outsider, and plants one on her in a dark room away from a dinner party. And the affair begins.
Nothing too rough or unpredictable occurs thereafter. It's a mutually beneficial relationship, conducted, excitedly, on the down-low (Jeremy's mother, a narcissistic therapist played by Julie White, thinks Jeremy is gay). The misfits bring out the best in each other. The film, written by Sarah Koskoff and directed by Todd Louiso, glides along a well-worn groove, scored by composer Laura Veirs' sad/comforting music — music that placates, reassuring us that everything on screen may not be challenging or all that vital, but it'll be fine in the end.
There are times when the facile flimsiness of "Hello I Must Be Going" threatens to float right off the screen. But Lynskey has her ways of surprising us, even when nothing in the script itself is doing so. The look on Amy's face, about to puke in the back seat of her parents' car, with her father driving a little too fast on the curves. The way she plunks herself down in Jeremy's bedroom beanbag chair and is startled by how low it is, and the absurdity of her being in her teen lover's bedroom in the first place. These are small things in a small, largely indistinct comedy, but Lynskey keeps dropping them into the characterization, pleasingly.
'Hello I Must Be Going' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for language and sexual content)
Running time: 1:34