Mr. Roosevelt is a coming-of-age comedy and depicts what happens when a struggling comedian returns home to Austin to bury her cat.
The film marked the directorial debut for Saturday Night Live alumnus Noël Wells. While SNL may not be for everyone, it doesn’t mean that cast members aren’t allowed be successful following a short stint–look at Casey Wilson, for example. Wells’ performances in both The Incredible Jessica James and her work on Mr. Roosevelt shows that a brief career on SNL doesn’t mark the end of the world. With this film, she brings the whole package here with acting, writing, and directing.
Wells leads a cast that includes .
Wells stars as Emily Martin, a struggling comedian who finds out that her cat is dying and rushes back home to Austin. She had moved to LA with hopes of a career in comedy and left her cat with her boyfriend, Eric Kline (Nick Thune) in Texas. As is the case with any long-distance relationship, a long-term relationship just isn’t meant to be. Upon coming back home, she finds herself intimidated by his new girlfriend, Celeste Jones (Britt Lower). In Texas and staying at their place for the weekend, Emily catches up with old acquaintances, including Jen Morales (Daniella Pineda), as she tries not to lose it in front of the new girlfriend. Emily might not be the most likable character but coming home leads the self-centered comedian to do some serious soul-searching.
While Wells could have put her own take on Celeste, there’s certainly nobody else who could have played in the leading role. Lower absolutely owns her performance as Celeste and there’s so much comedy that comes from the two characters. Emily clearly has issues with Celeste not only taking her place but also her cat. One of the film’s darkest moment comes during the third act when Celeste invites friends over for Mr. Roosevelt’s funeral but none of them really knew Mr. Roosevelt, let alone knew him in the way that Emily or Eric did.
Daniella Pineda makes for a nice addition as the film’s fourth lead, Jen Morales. Pineda’s performance will leave one wanting not only more of her character but also wanting to see what else she can do in other projects. It was a performance that I enjoyed back in May when I saw the film for the first time and still resonate with it over seven months later.
It’s a solid first feature from Wells, who proves on the first try that one doesn’t need to make a flashy blockbuster in order to be a successful filmmaker. Moreover, Wells chose to direct her first film on 35mm in an era when many filmmakers would opt to go the digital route. It’s a decision supported by the director of photography, Dagmar-Weaver Madsen, but Wells is someone who knows her way around film stocks.
Mr. Roosevelt is indie filmmaking at its finest.
Writer/director: Noël Wells
Cast: Noël Wells, Nick Thune, Britt Lower, Daniella Pineda, Andre Hyland, Doug Benson, Armen Weitzman, and Sergio Cilli
Mr. Roosevelt held its world premiere this past March at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival and was shown during the 2017 Chicago Critics Film Festival. Paladin and Netflix released the film on October 27, 2017. Netflix made the film available for streaming on December 26, 2017. For interested audiences in Chicago, Facets will run the film for a week starting on Friday, January 5, 2017.