Review: ‘Be Good’

Todd Looby's semi-autobiographical second narrative feature is an incisive if slightly underdeveloped portrait of marital strain.

Modest but involving, “Be Good” traces the rising discord between a Chicago couple whose economically forced baby-raising approach — he’s the stay-at-home parent, she’s the office clock-puncher — unsettles all parties involved. Todd Looby’s semi-autobiographical second narrative feature is very much in a mumblecore-grows-up vein, complete with a cameo by Joe Swanberg as himself. But nobody’s mumbling in this incisive if slightly underdeveloped portrait of marital strain. Critical support could float a smallscale theatrical release.

After six months’ maternity leave, Mary (Amy Seimetz) returns to her office job very reluctantly. But she’s the major breadwinner for now, as husband Paul (Thomas J. Madden) is a filmmaker of the type that wins festival attention but (so far) little financial reward. He’s finished research on Mexican drug cartels for a screenplay that might really pay off — if only he can get it done. But baby Pearl (Tessa Day Looby) is nap-resistant, leaving few moments for pure creative concentration. Meanwhile, Mary’s separation anxieties find an outlet in her frustration with Paul’s earning-potential and parenting skills. Well acted, observed and crafted, the brief pic ends in unnecessarily curt fashion, compromising without negating its overall impact.

Be Good

Production

An Obrigado production. Produced by Todd Looby, Thomas J. Madden. Executive producers, Looby, Madden, Vladimir Radovanov. Directed, written by Todd Looby.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Mike Gibisser; editors, Ryan Gould, Looby; music, Dan Macaluso; sound, Frank V. Ross, Lauren Donati; re-recording mixer, Seth Boggess. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Feb. 19, 2013. (In San Francisco Independent Film Festival.) Running time: 70 MIN.

With

Thomas J. Madden, Amy Seimetz, Tessa Day Looby, Todd Looby, Joe Swanberg, Billy Phelan, Paul Gordon.

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