I should apologize up front for the bared emotion bound to litter this review, but I won’t.

I should disclose the multiple scenarios similar to the one in this movie that I’ve been through, but I won’t. At least not until I’ve buried my own metaphorical cat, something Mr. Roosevelt helped me realize I needed to do yesterday. Something I wasn’t even sure I needed to do before seeing Emily (Noël Wells) prostrated and sobbing on the front lawn of a friends house. So I will, likewise, now prostrate myself across the screen before you. This is going to come across as a rant turned introspective, but in the spirit of the film, I think that is entirely appropriate.
Noël Wells captures the hope within every self-conscious person who ever accidentally made anyone laugh. Anyone who ever followed an unfiltered thought into a mid-day dance down a busy street and stopped only to wonder, Why are these people laughing?
“They were laughing because you’re funny.”
And maybe you are. Or maybe you make them smile, or cry, or love more deeply. Maybe you’re everything all at once swimming in a bathtub of spaghetti. Maybe it’s none of that but you just can’t picture spending your time doing anything but that one specific thing that would lead someone like Emily to take off unannounced across the country just to see if she could really do it. Because to be fully honest, if whatever that thing is is more important than love or breathing, you should probably take off unannounced and try it.
The film opens on an overly revealing speech at an audition, but beyond the audition is when we find Emily actually in the audition. Emily is someone who lives wholly inside the performance and there isn’t really anything wrong with that, but it does lead to exactly where she finds herself a mere 10 minutes later. She goes from standing in front of an audition room to standing in a doorway in front of a very different kind of audition. Like an imagined audible, ‘Meanwhile, back home…’ where everyone seems happier than you and you relive the past because what else are you supposed to do where you were only ever happy until you weren’t and instead ran away to recapture that feeling but never will because when you lose ‘home’ it is not something you can go back to find, but something you must make anew. Something you must relabel and repackage and reveal through a series of montage memories and metaphors that culminate only when you can learn that forward means no going back.
For anyone who ever followed an unfiltered thought into a mid-day dance down a busy street and stopped only to wonder, Why are these people laughing?
And definitely not back to Eric (Nick Thune) and his “Pinterest board come to life” new girlfriend, Celeste (Britt Lower), the second version of you that is supposedly better but is often an overcorrection in the wrong direction, like an iOS update. But A ⍰ digress. This idea is brilliantly visaged in Noël’s writing and Britt Lower’s portrayal of her place in your place. The place you’re now staying because, of course, someone like Emily, and to be fully honest, myself, would find herself in the house she left out of requirement to fulfill her creative dreams. A house no longer hers but something like a spectral ghost of who she was, and may still have been if not for the need to make and move and dance.
It’s hard to fault Emily for her fevered daydreams about her ex; Her moving around the house like a memory; Her attempts to reassert her views about the direction of his life. But mostly because I’ve been there. He is, unfortunately, where I was when an old friend found me. Having been force fed lies about the inability of creativity to foster a life outside of steady underemployment and mild drunkenness, I found myself near marriage in a small snowbound city somewhere North of home and South of real happiness. An old friend I’d always thought about but never found myself beside, called and asked me how I was doing, before not so subtly suggesting that maybe what I was doing was running from myself. It was hard to hear then and I doubted her, but her call was precisely what led me to the same forked road decision Eric finds himself on the other side of. He and Emily walk through his love of guitar and she asks why it is he hasn’t made the same solitary leap toward his own creative dreams. In the end, it seems to boil down to the fact that to him, the path to family is more important than the realization of his dreams. Something that didn’t even factor into her (or my own) decision to take off on a whim to a city a thousand miles away from him without so much as a note.
It is that decision that separates people most. That some, expression and fulfillment in one’s endeavors is more important than family and savings and real estate internships. Or maybe its just that what fills you up with love and meaning can be something like swimming in spaghetti, or something very different like raising a child. All of this making Emily a spectral haunt in the house she left behind. In that, Ms. Wells and I can find a very certain type of solace. Because to truly know shame and find strength in it is the type of strength that can and will lead her to eventually stop reliving the same few frames of her marinara laden gift and be able to get out and share more. Because editing the past is impossible. Made mistakes are set in stone more firmly than any pen or drunken guitar solo can undo. What we can do is bury the cat, offer our condolences, find solace in new friends, and just move on, letting go of all those feelings that seemed so important in your twenties on the verge of a new decade. Some of us overdo it in an effort to appear as what we assume adults should be, what they seemed like when we were younger, some hyper-realistic version of what they actually were. Some of us run the opposite direction from anyone who says we should do otherwise until a well-meaning friend who knows better tosses a glass of water in our face. Sometimes things that can’t be repaired are better left broke, and the same goes for some people.
Thank you, Noël. I slept much better last night. Something I wasn’t sure I’d say again before you showed me what burying the ashes of a cat could do. Don’t dwell on the past. Or do, and see this film if you need a nudge because, I mean, “Are you willing to be reborn” or not?

‘Mr. Roosevelt’ is not rated. 90 minutes. Opening tomorrow at Arena Cinelounge Sunset.