Netflix’s Good on Paper Review: Great Idea, Poor Execution

If we were to judge movies on their ideas alone, Good on Paper would have been a ten-on-ten watch. It isn’t your typical romantic comedy with a meet-cute and a happy ending. Directed by Kimmy Gatewood and starring Ilisa Shlesinger, Ryan Hansen, and Margaret Cho, Good on Paper delivers what it promises, and yet we can’t help but feel disappointed.

Andrea Singer is a stand-up comic, and although not wildly popular, she does okay. She’s witty, she’s ambitious but she’s not where she wants to be in life. Enter: Dennis, the nice guy with a job in hedge funds and a house in Beverly hills.

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The plot revolves around Andrea, as she juggles friends and persistent lovers with a career she thinks is doomed. While she thinks she’s bagged the perfect guy, and the perfect role after years of auditioning, things aren’t quite as simple as they seem. And of course, they are not, because what kind of a movie would that be?

Shlesinger, who was also the screenwriter for Good on Paper, bases the character of Andrea Singer loosely around herself and her failed dating experiences. And though the screenplay makes it evident that there simply wasn’t a lack of ideas, perhaps there is just too much going on for Good on Paper to realize its true potential.

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The movie moves too slow and way too fast at the same time. We found ourselves checking the time way too often. And yet, the plot moved from friends to lovers to enemies in just a matter of scenes. This usually happens when a movie tries to introduce too many conflicts at once. And while all of them may be great ideas, Good on Paper doesn’t give them much space to settle in.

A still from Good on Paper, starring Iliza Schlesinger and Ryan Hansen.
Netflix's Good on Paper Review: Great Idea, Poor Execution 2

What we loved about Good on Paper, was Shlesinger cutting in with odd bits of stand-up segments that seemed to tie in that mess of half-cooked ideas that just floated around by themselves. Shlesinger has a great stage presence, which translates well into a stellar camera presence as well.

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While it has its fair share of flaws, Good on Paper gets a lot of things right. The film is almost entirely women-led. The lead cast is almost all female, it manages to show women in positions of power without mocking them, the writer and the director are female, and it definitely passes the Bechdel Test. Even within the plot, we see our fair share of sexism, and how the lead shoots it down. Respect for women: check. It’s refreshing to see a comedy that doesn’t objectify women for the sake of a few laughs (ahem, The Grown Ups, ahem). Even though they do trash talk the men in the movie, the characters actually deserve it.

Good on Paper can be a fun, light-hearted watch for a girl’s night in. It’ll make you laugh, give you a few things to talk about, and revel in that post feminist movie happy-ending bliss, but that’s about it. Don’t go into it expecting anything more.

Final Verdict: Good on Paper

Good on Paper is exactly that: good on paper. While the idea seems kick-ass, the execution pants its way across the finish line. Nevertheless, the jokes peppered throughout the script are great and boast nuanced writing, Schlesinger’s screen presence and the general concept of an anti Rom-Com makes this at least a one-time watch. Stream it here on Netflix.

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Good on Paper is exactly that: good on paper. While the idea seems kick-ass, the execution pants its way across the finish line.

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