“There’s no way in hell you’re a bad person. You’re a good person… with really bad execution.”Jen Morales
Noël Wells is most recognisable from the first season of Master of None, and the same endearing charm infuses her debut as writer, director and lead. This makes Emily a deceptive protagonist as it takes some time for the audience to realise how much of a self-involved mess she truly is, despite Emily turning up in her hometown with a single backpack and nowhere to stay after hearing her cat “Mr Roosevelt” is dying, on the assumption her ex-boyfriend will be happy to put her up. Wells’ personal familiarity with the city of Austin grounds the film, and allows for background commentary on gentrification. There are noticeable parallels with Zach Braff’s debut with the off-beat Garden State, in which he also took on the duties of writer, director and lead, and which features a struggling LA actor returning to their hometown. A key difference is that, where Garden State has (with hindsight) been accused of propagating the manic pixie dream girl trope, Emily is affronted when labelled “quirky” because it allows women not to be taken seriously. Mr Roosevelt is not so polished or assured as Garden State but its lack of stylisation makes it appealingly honest in its depictions of messy interactions as regular people try to help one another and improve themselves.