January 1, 2018

SCREEN | Noël Wells Remembers 'Mr. Roosevelt'

Daniel Pineda Noël Wells | Mr. Roosevelt

Performer Noël Wells (an SNL alum) writes, directs, and stars in her directorial debut, a familiar yet plenty original enough indie comedy about coming home and facing your past all during one awkward weekend, in the poorly titled Mr. Roosevelt—named after her cat in the film. Wells proves her muscle as, not only a physical comedian but also, a talented filmmaker fully embracing her idiosyncrasies in very self-aware and specific ways on screen.

Filmed on gorgeous 35mm film, the comedy has a rich, classical throwback look and feel to it and evokes a 1990s era style of independent filmmaking mashed together with its contemporary internet video culture inspired subject matter. Reminiscent of films like Garden State, Wells and her riff on a Zooey Deschanel type personality uses the Los Angeles alternative comedy scene and changing Austin arts community to successfully build the world and characters around her.

Wells' Emily is plenty flawed, self-destructive, and deprecating as Wells' offbeat performance strikes a nice balance between carefree and neurotic while always being watchable. She constructs herself as the anti-quirky version of the stereotypical female romantic lead.

Noël Wells Daniella Pineda | Mr. Roosevelt

Comedian Nick Thune feels like an apt foil to Emily as her laid-back ex-boyfriend. Thune provides a great contrast to her highly strung antics and neuroses. A chipper Britt Lower doesn't get as much to do as Thune's new (seemingly perfect) girlfriend but hits all her overachieving notes just right fitting nicely into the story filled with constant embarrassment, regret, and shame.

It's really Daniella Pineda and her impossibly cool presence that threatens to steal every scene she's in. She plays the old friend in town who kind of magically shows up everywhere. Her character's convenience doesn't matter much, because she's so fun as a wise as the outlandish waitress/drummer party girl.

What's most endearing about Mr. Roosevelt is how atypical the execution of its very typical story is. Wells is an entirely endearing presence as is her cast of lesser know but incredibly talented comic actors. She takes a fairly straightforward premise about life moving on without you and injects her brand of highly specific weirdness to showcase her varied storytelling talents just ever so entertainingly.

Mr. Roosevelt screened at the 2017 Calgary International Film Festival as part of the New American Cinema Series and is available to stream on Netflix.

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