Mr. Roosevelt

Independent films, especially comedies, are often born from interesting ideas. These ideas inspire and motivate filmmakers to grow the idea into a full-fledged film. From writer/director/star Noël Wells, the idea behind Mr. Roosevelt is simple and strange. What happens when a person is forced to return home because the cat she left with her ex-boyfriend is dead.

Emily (Noel Wells) is a struggling actress and minor YouTube celebrity grinding it out in Hollywood. She is forced to confront her past when she finds out that her cat, Mr. Roosevelt, is dead. Returning to her hometown of Austin, the first friendly face she sees is her ex-boyfriend, Eric (Nick Thune). Now enters Celeste (Britt Lower), Eric’s fiancé. While Emily was in Los Angeles, Celeste slowly became the surrogate owner of Mr. Roosevelt. And the rivalry over Mr. Roosevelt begins.

“What happens to a person forced to return home because the cat she left with her ex-boyfriend passes away…”

Unable to properly plan her trip, Emily accepts Eric’s invitation to stay at their former home now occupied and decorated by Celeste (Britt Lower). Emily soon becomes the ultimate third wheel. It’s clear to Emily that life with Celeste brought major upgrades to Eric’s life. Eric has new friends. He is pursuing a new career in Real Estate.

Emily can’t help but obsessively compare her life to Celeste’s. After causing a scene during dinner with Eric’s new affluent friends, Emily storms off and collides with waitress and free-spirit Jen (Daniella Pineda). Emily and Jen instantly find common ground and friendship. Jen represents the life Emily had and the person she was before moving to Hollywood.

Mr. Roosevelt Is a story about transitions. Adulthood doesn’t arrive at a particular age. It’s a deliberate moment in life when we choose to become an adult.  As an audience, we sympathize with the loss of Emily’s cat and stand behind her when condolences go to Celeste. But is Celeste the rightful villain in the story?

“Adulthood doesn’t arrive at a particular age. It’s a deliberate moment in life when we choose to become an adult…”

Noël Wells is strong as the lead of the film she wrote and directed. She successfully guides Emily through the right emotional moments. Emily has to hit bottom, and Wells gets her there. Her supporting cast is just as good. I loved Britt Lower’s condescending sympathies to Emily. You really want to make her the villain. Nick Thune is fantastic as a man caught between his past and his present.

Overall, Mr. Roosevelt is a light comedy. You’ll smile. You’ll laugh. The film’s only comedic misstep was to try and make every minor character quirky, like the Uber driver and veterinarian. There’s also a cringe-worthy moment revealing how Emily and Eric resolve their arguments as a couple. Two words: improv students.

Creatives have stories to tell. This is Noël Wells’ story to tell. And good storytelling like Mr. Roosevelt is why we watch independent films. It’s a good story and a good start for Wells.

Mr. Roosevelt (2017) Written and directed by Noël Wells. Starring Noël Wells, Nick Thune.

3 out of 5 stars

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