Grief is an unusual beast, though perhaps a bit more unusual in Heather de Michele's As Good as You, an indie dramedy opening in L.A.'s Laemmle Music Hall June 9th alongside Pride Week festivities. As Good As You circles around Jo (Laura Heisler), whose wife dies after a prolonged illness leaving the 41-year-old Jo with a ticking biological clock, a serious case of writer's block, and a personal life that becomes increasingly chaotic over the course of the 86-minute running time for this First Run Features release.
As Good As You is a quietly poignant film, gentle laughs weaving their way through gentle life truths as Jo tries to do everything right along her healing journey but very nearly blows up her life instead.
There's a laid back authenticity flowing through As Good As You, though the film is occasionally hindered by its convenient set-ups including the conveniently always empty neighborhood bar where Jo hangs out with the punkish Lisa (Anna Fitzwater), whose gentle cajoling tries to bring Jo out of her writer's block and masks a not so secret crush, and Nate (Raoul Bhaneja), whose presence is less defined yet whose crush on Jo is no less obvious.
While it may seem convenient and maybe even a little absurd to drop a love triangle lite amidst a story of grief, yet grief is an unusual beast and as someone who responded to my own spouse's death by getting engaged to a much younger and way out of my league dirty blonde after our grief-filled quickie in the projection room of a local theater I can assure you that As Good As You exudes its gently absurd scenarios in ways that are honest and heartfelt and, yeah, just a little funny along the way.
The film picked up the prize for Best LGBT Film at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival and should easily resonate with LGBT moviegoers though, hey, wouldn't it be lovely if this universal story of love and grief and healing could snag the crossover audience it so much deserves?
As Good As You benefits from a winning performance by Laura Heisler as Jo, projecting with simplicity and conviction all her doubts and insecurities, impulses and, way down deep, a whole lotta fears. Anna Fitzwater shines as Lisa, while Raoul Bhaneja makes the most of his underdeveloped scenes. Bryan Dechart takes a character who could have so easily been a caricature, the partner's brother whom Jo now wants to be a sperm donor for the long desired baby, and infuses his Jamie with what turns out to be the soul of the film. In a relatively brief appearance, the always dazzling Annie Potts steals it as Dr. Berg, a psychologist that Jamie and Jo must meet with before the whole sperm donation scenario starts to unravel through other unfolding circumstances.
While As Good As You is occasionally a little too convenient for its own good, it possesses such a gentle honesty and warm dedication to its characters that it's easy to forgive its modest flaws and surrender to its tale of grief, loss, love and eventually moving on. If you're in L.A. this weekend, As Good As You would make a perfect complement to your Pride Week festivities.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic