Emily Martin is an aspiring comedian, and she is smart and talented and funny and a little bit self-absorbed and overly sensitive and messy, and I don’t know how you can’t mostly love her from the moment we see her at an audition.
“This is Holly Hunter at a garage sale!” says Emily as she dons a short wig and launches into someone who sounds exactly like we’d imagine Holly Hunter would sound if she had only 79 cents to spend at a garage sale.
“This is a girl who’s always cold …” (We KNOW that girl, don’t we?)
“This is Kristen Wiig discovering a murder scene …”
“This is an impression of a Vine video of a girl at a Beyonce concert …”
Emily’s great, and it doesn’t matter if the jaded casting team doesn’t get her and is hardly paying attention to her, because if they don’t get it somebody will.
Noël Wells (“Saturday Night Live,” “Master of None”) is the writer, the director and the star of “Mr. Roosevelt,” a small and witty and sweet film about an aspiring comedian in Los Angeles who returns to her college town of Austin, Texas, because her cat is dying, and while she’s there she’ll come to terms with her past and reconsider what she’s doing in the present about her possibilities for the future.
If that sounds like the makings of a perhaps overly familiar type of semi-autobiographical indie film, well, that’s because it IS such a film, but it’s also likable and breezy and very knowing about many things millennial.
Wells is a talent as a storyteller and as a director with a nice visual touch, and as a screen presence. Emily is wonderful. We like spending time with them. (Noel and Emily, I mean.)
Los Angeles. Emily is mid-tryst with a dude (another aspiring comic) who tweets out a joke in an intimate moment, when she gets an urgent message from her ex-boyfriend Eric, back in Austin. Emily’s cat, Mr. Roosevelt, is dying — so she grabs a flight home, just in time to bid farewell to the poor little guy.
That’s also the moment when Eric the ex (Nick Thune) introduces Emily to his girlfriend Celeste (Britt Lower), who not only lives with Eric in the house he formerly shared with Emily, but has become so attached to Mr. Roosevelt the cat that SHE’S the one weeping in the vet’s office.
In the first few days leading up to a memorial service for Mr. Roosevelt, Emily stays with Eric and Celeste, and that’s an even worse idea than it sounds.
Turns out Celeste is pretty much perfect, in that annoying way of someone whose real life isn’t measurably deeper than her Instagram life. (A typical Facebook post from Celeste, who among other things has totally redone the house: “Redoing the pipes. Copper is the new gold.”)
Celeste has also domesticized Eric, who has moved his guitars and amps into the shed and put his music career on hold to pursue a future in real estate, and has even changed his dietary habits (no more gluten!) to please Celeste.
“We’re actually off coffee now,” he tells Emily. “But you know what? I actually have more energy.”
Oh shut up, Eric.
As Emily dips her toes into Austin’s bohemian scene, connecting with laid-back hipsters — some genuine, some as calculated and smug about their lifestyle choices as Celeste and Eric on their most Pinterest-y of days — she makes some really bad choices, and is not always the most likable person in the room. Kudos to Wells the writer for not always taking the easiest dramatic route, and creating scenarios in which she risks the viewer losing some of that affection we have for Emily, who can be a real s— at times.
But mostly Emily is great. She’s gonna do great.
Paladin presents a film written and directed by Noël Wells. No MPAA rating. Running time: 90 minutes. Available on Netflix and on demand, and opens Friday at Facets Cinematheque.