Carrie Fisher once told Meryl Streep, “Take your broken heart, make into art.”
If we’re putting “scammed for almost two years by a friend-turned-lover with a completely fabricated identity” under the umbrella of broken heart (which we should, honestly), then writer-actor Iliza Shlesinger has nailed the assignment.
Her new Netflix feature “Good on Paper” marked its streaming premiere last week and has remained a Top 10 holdover on the service as America approaches Independence Day weekend. The film tells the wild, mostly true story of how the comedian was duped after a meet-cute on an airplane.
“He was just sitting next to me, and we started talking and really got along. He was a nice, preppy hedge fund type. My boyfriend was picking me up from that flight, and his girlfriend was picking him up. We exchanged Twitter handles and I invited him and the girlfriend to one of my shows,” Shlesinger recalled to Variety.
Life as a stand-up is strange, she said, and leads to odd pockets of free time. The gentleman in question was always available, and the two struck up a platonic bond for almost a year before things turned romantic.
“He sprung it on me that his mom had cancer and, because I’m a human with a heart, my heart sort of simultaneously opened up to him. Here’s this great guy, and maybe I do like him that way? We began dating for about three months, and all of the cracks started to show in a major way. I soon found out that everything about him was lie,” she said.
The lies were not earth shattering, nothing in line with “I’m the king of Spain, and I have a fleet of horses that live on a yacht,” she says. The devil was in the small, innocuous details that no one questions when meeting someone new — where he was from, what he did for a living, his family. Her mother, who inspired a character played by Margaret Cho in “Good on Paper,” was the first to pick up on inconsistencies.
“She actually did a bit of sleuthing, because his stories weren’t lining up,” she said. A breakthrough came when her Yale alumnus cousin met her then-boyfriend, who also claimed to have gone to the school. The cousin asked which of two warring pizza parlors in New Haven had his loyalty — and the boyfriend had no answer, simply saying, “I don’t’ like pizza.”
The dominoes fell from there (we wont spoil the film). Plagued by the experience, Shlesinger decided to channel it into a feature script, a process she found cathartic.
“It started as a bit of a revenge fantasy, but the more I worked on it and more people signed on, it became something creative and fulfilling. Now, when I think about that time in my life, I really have to dig for that bad experience, because my first thought is about the amazing people involved and not the source,” she said.
More rewarding, she says, has been the response after sharing her story. “I’ve discovered how prevalent it is in our society. So many people have the exact same experience, or similar. People don’t share these because they’re embarrassed,” she said.
When asked if her former boyfriend who had inspired the film has seen it, Shlesinger laughs: “Don’t know, don’t care.”