“There is no way in hell you’re a bad person. You’re a good person -with really bad execution.”
Most would know Noël Wells from her role as the quirky girlfriend of Dev in the first season of Master of None, hence her directorial debut Mr. Roosevelt was a revelation showcasing her capabilities behind the camera. The comedy drama focuses on Emily Martin (Noël Wells), who has to deal with the death of her beloved cat, for which she goes back to her old town where she also has to come to terms with herself and her past.
Maybe the most notable thing about Mr. Roosevelt is the fact that Noel Wells wrote, directed, and starred as the protagonist in the film, which is an incredible undertaking under any circumstances, but especially so when it is a directorial debut.
The story is, despite the rather serious setting, quite light-hearted. The subtle jokes are always well placed, and they confirm Wells’ ability to deliver jokes without going for overused tropes or cliché topics. The plot is also quite reflecting on how to deal with grief and personal struggles, not hard at all to come by in our own lives.
The struggles that Emily faces are not entirely tied together, which could be a problem in a different film, but in the case of Mr. Roosevelt, these struggles craft the protagonist’s personality in a way that the character development feels very coherent by the end. The unexaggerated acting of Noel Wells also helps a lot with the aforementioned character development, as we see her acting shift while the film progresses.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of the film is its soundtrack as it consists of not-so-consistent songs brought together stylishly, with some exclusive tracks in between. Moreover, their placement helps with the delivery of the intended feeling of each scene, especially scenes with the band, where their energy can be felt throughout their entire appearance in those sequences.
Yet, the up-and-coming director mostly shines for two different reasons. The first one is not out of the ordinary, namely shooting a low budget indie film. On that matter, the team apparently knew the limitations of their budget and thus worked around them to ensure it had minimal impact on the final product, and for the most part, they have clearly succeeded.
The other reason is what I have pointed out earlier, namely Wells also starring as the protagonist, which is a really difficult thing to do especially since Mr. Roosevelt is the first time she was settling in as a director. In that case, the work she did is exceptional, though one could also argue that if she had someone else star in the film, she could have introduced even more strengths in her directorial debut that could have served as a good reference point for anything she might try and do from that point on.
Unfortunately, it has been more than four years at this point since Mr. Roosevelt has been released, and Noël Wells hasn’t directed a film since , but if she does return, her sophomore film will no doubt be very unique and charming. If she doesn’t return to the director’s chair, we can at least hope for more projects where she performs in stories with a similar feeling, as watching Mr. Roosevelt is quite an enjoyable experience.
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