‘Good on Paper’ is the kind of romantic comedy that fans tired of the genre’s many saccharine plotlines will love. The grumpy stand-up comic Andrea, who the film follows, decides to take her friend’s advice and lets her guard down, only to fall in love with the highly shifty Dennis. What follows is a cat and mouse game of wits and a wild goose chase as Andrea, egged on by her fiery friend Margot, tries to catch Dennis in one of his many lies. The film’s predictable meet-cute beginning takes a refreshing turn as things get out of control, and Dennis, at one point, even fears he may have lost a kidney. Let’s take a closer look at the viciously funny ‘Good on Paper.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
Good on Paper Plot Synopsis
‘Good on Paper’ opens with the film’s protagonist performing a stand-up comedy gig and pulling it off with aplomb. We then see Andrea during the day at a television audition where she critiques the script’s comedy and, in return, gets cold-shouldered by the showrunners, resulting in her not getting the part. The audition panel then gets excited for the actress auditioning after her, who turns out to be Andrea’s long-time friend Serrena who has had a successful career as a television actress ever since the two moved to Los Angeles together.
Whilst having an ill-tempered drink at her friend Margot’s bar, Andrea is told by her friend to open up to new possibilities and stop being so negative. Taking her words to heart, our leading lady decides to open up to Dennis, a pompous yet oddly charming man she met at the airport. Dennis turns out to be the companion that Andrea has been looking for, and the two soon become inseparable friends. He is funny, smart, and wealthy, and Andrea, though not physically attracted to him, finds herself quite attached to the slightly goofy man. Her friend Margot is also suitably impressed when Dennis reveals that he’s a hedge fund manager.
After many fun evenings with Dennis, and partly out of pity because of his terminally ill mother, Andrea finally decides to take the plunge and agrees to go steady with him. However, holes in Dennis’ seemingly perfect Yale-graduate-hedge-fund-manager existence soon begin to show up as Andrea sees him unable to keep up with her actual Yale-alumni brother. Things come to a head when she discovers Dennis living with two female roommates instead of the Beverly Hills house he claims to own.
Good on Paper Ending: What Happens to Dennis?
Andrea and Margot hatch a plan to get Dennis drunk and confess, which ends up being a little too effective. They soon have Dennis passed out drunk and tied to a chair, but not before accidentally injuring him on the door to Margot’s basement. Upon him waking up, Andrea confronts Dennis, and he confesses to being a lowly bank assistant who only lied to impress her. A mortified Andrea calls their relationship off but is soon arrested for kidnapping and injuring Dennis.
A vengeful Dennis now wages a legal battle on the increasingly embittered Andrea for abducting him and injuring him in the process. The comedian accepts her faults but points out that Dennis is as pathetic as her for constantly hiding who he is. In the end, Andrea is slapped with a restraining order, which she happily accepts. She also uses the money she gets from selling Dennis’ promise ring to buy the hoarding she always wanted to see herself on. On it, she advertises Dennis as a liar alongside a picture of him.
So it looks like Andrea, though once again single, got the billboard she always wanted. However, what happened to the mysterious man on the hoarding? The last we hear, Dennis’ roommate Maggie says that he disappeared from their shared house a few weeks ago, leaving all his belongings behind. Much like Andrea, we also know very little about Dennis Kelly, and he seems to have disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared.
The only thing we know about Dennis is that he was a bank assistant who lived in a single room of the house he shared with Maggie. Considering how much he liked his rich, well-educated alter ego, and seeing as he left all his things behind, it seems like Dennis has made a new identity for himself and plans on procuring an entirely new persona. The fact that Andrea has displayed his face on a prominent billboard in the city, which labels him a liar, also augers that the mysterious man will attempt to significantly change how he looks.
Dennis, throughout the film, shows himself to be an accomplished liar and convincing actor, which allows him to repeatedly manipulate Andrea into believing him. He will no doubt use his talents to forge a completely new character for himself. His parting words to the frustrated comedian — that he hopes to meet her under more favorable circumstances — could point to him planning to cross paths with Andrea again sometime in the future under a different guise.
Why Did Andrea Date Dennis if She Was Not Attracted to Him?
Since the start, Andrea is conflicted about whether she likes Dennis or not. She finds him pompous but oddly charming; bumbling, yet well-spoken and smart. Through all her confusion, however, the one thing she is certain of is that she is not physically attracted to him. This results in their friendship remaining platonic for many months, during which they become close.
Andrea finally relents and lets Dennis kiss her at a party where they go to take his mind off his sick mother. Having earlier rejected his advances, Andrea kisses him this time partly because she feels sorry for him and partly because they are both drunk. In one of the earlier cutaway scenes of her stand-up comedy gig, Andrea even cracks a joke to the same effect. Her feelings of affection towards Dennis get only stronger the next morning when she decides that she wants to be his girlfriend.
This sudden change in Andrea is driven by the fact that through their friendship, she has become increasingly attached to Dennis. As Margot explains, by saying the right things and boosting her ego, Dennis becomes her inseparable friend whose company Andrea enjoys largely for that particular reason. Therefore, once the barrier of physical intimacy gets removed after their kiss, it is most likely that Andrea feels that she is ready to have a complete relationship with Dennis. Of course, she later realizes her massive error in judgment, with hilarious consequences.
Why Are There Stand Up Comedy Scenes in Between?
The stand-up comedy scenes we see at the opening of the film — and then regularly throughout — feature Andrea telling an unseen audience jokes that match what is currently happening in the movie. The cutaway scenes work as a sort of abstract commentary on the film and the situations that Andrea finds herself in, from the perspective of the actual person who plays her role in the film.
The cut-away scenes are of standup comic Iliza Shlesinger performing a show in front of a live audience. The comedian is the writer of ‘Good on Paper,’ and also essays the leading role of Andrea. Hence, the jokes that she tells parallel to the film’s story are possibly the comedic material that she eventually based her movie on. These cut-away scenes have Iliza outlining hypothetical situations, which we then see occur to the characters in the movie, giving each of her jokes good mileage and an opportunity to be explored from different angles.
Read More: Is Good on Paper Based on a True Story?