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Overall Rating
4.32

Awesome: 32.14%
Worth A Look67.86%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 16 user ratings


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Goodbye Girl, The (1977)
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by Ryan Arthur

"He rented the apartment...what a shitheel."
4 stars

Relationship movies are always kind of dicey with me. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, and there are more frequent misses than hits. Part of it's the chemistry (or lack thereof) of the leads, the situations the plot finds them in, and other surrounding factors. Actually, you can say that about any type of movie, but when it comes to romantic comedies, it's a fine line that gets walked. The original version of The Goodbye Girl is as close to a near hit as you'll find.

The premise is simple enough. Romantic comedies generally start one of two ways - the "meet cute," where the two leads bump into each other and there's instant attraction, and there's the opposite of the "meet cute," where the two leads generally start off disliking each other, then gradually fall in love. The Goodbye Girl follows the latter setup.

Paula (Marsha Mason) and her daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings) are living with Tony, an actor. Paula and Lucy come home one day to find that Tony has bailed on them, headed off to Europe for a role. It's a scene Paula's used to. She's always been attracted to actors, and she's always been left in a lurch - she's the "goodbye girl" of the title. The hitch this time is that Tony has sublet their apartment to make a quick buck. Paula and Lucy thought the rent was paid for the next several months, so they're more than a little surprised to have the new tenant knocking on the door one rainy midnight.

The new tenant is Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss), a struggling actor from Chicago who's come to New York to play the lead in Richard III. Mom and daughter uneasily allow Elliot in (he's got the law on his side, but he's allowing Paula to think she's in control), and the tension begins. Paula's stuck with another struggling actor who may or may not be able to cover expenses, and she's a dancer who's past her prime and can barely make ends meet herself. If Elliot's successful, he'll be like all the others and take off when the next opportunity knocks, and she's determined not to become attached in any way. Things get complicated (don't they always?) when both she and Lucy fall for Elliot.

The Goodbye Girl is just a basic romantic comedy. There are no elaborate setups, no comedies of misunderstanding. The most unique part of the whole premise is the subplot of Elliot's director (Paul Benedict) suggesting Elliot play Richard III as flamboyantly gay. It's also something of an anomaly from late '70s, because Paula isn't written or played as an independent woman who can survive on her own: she's completely co-dependent, breaking down when the unseen Tony leaves and trying valiantly not to crumble when presented with the same potential problems with Elliot. It's hard to believe that she falls as hard as she does for the same type of people who leave her in the same situations, and all she does is keep coming back for more. There's definitely a certain innocence to it. The film looks dated, though, and hasn't aged all that well.

Still, I liked The Goodbye Girl, mostly for Neil Simon's dialogue. Elliot's a walking encyclopedia of filmic knowledge, and he's quick on his feet. The dialogue exchanges between Elliot and Lucy and Elliot and Paula are funny and extremely quick-witted. Simon was nominated for an Oscar for screenplay (Dreyfuss and Mason were nominated for Best Actor/Actress; only Dreyfuss won), and the performances aren't too bad.

Dreyfuss is a whirlwind. His Elliot is passionate about his craft, and passionate about living. Whether it's his insistence on his wheat germ and incense and meditation, or his agreeing to play Richard III as gay if - and only if - his director returns the hunchback and the twisted extremities...he's a hoot, and I'm generally not a fan of his performances in general, and yeah, he's essentially playing himself. Yet when he turns on the charm and Paula melts, yes, it's hokey, but Dreyfuss makes it work.

Mason does a good job with the dialogue, although I didn't think the character was written all that well. It's not as though the performance was bad, quite the contrary; I just think she was limited in how to play the part as it was written. The chemistry with Dreyfuss is good, though, both initially as they're indignant towards each other and as she warms up to him. She also has some really good scenes with Cummings, who kind of stole the show whenever she was on screen. Again, a lot of it comes down to the dialogue: a ten-year-old that can trade movie anecdotes with an actor? Cute. The delivery was key, and a lot of it was completely deadpan, which made it all the more funny. She deserves a lot of credit for that, and she also got to have the best line of the film, when taking in Elliot's performance during Richard III she leans over to Mason's Paula and whispers "he sounds like the guy who works in the beauty parlor."

You know exactly where The Goodbye Girl is heading almost as soon as it starts, so don't go in expecting a surprise or a shocking twist. The enjoyment is in getting there. Great dialogue and decent performances from the three leads offset the relatively simple story and out-of-date look.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6556&reviewer=7
originally posted: 01/12/04 05:54:16
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User Comments

5/02/10 PAUL SHORTT ENJOYABLE, ENTERTAINING COMEDY WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES 4 stars
4/19/08 Pamela White relationship healing after hurt wonderful 4 stars
10/21/04 Squash The movie and the song still feel and sound so good, even after all these years! 5 stars
6/25/04 David Fowler Dreyfuss Perfect, Mason Perfect, Cummings Perfect. Funny, warm, lovely. Simon's very best! 5 stars
5/20/04 The More You Know I like the goodbye girl~~how about you? 5 stars
3/02/04 Michael Mungin I've never liked Richard Dreyfuss so much in a movie, besides Jaws. Awesome 5 stars
2/10/04 tatum Cummings and Dreyfuss lift iffy material 4 stars
1/31/04 Joseph Simpkins Richard Dreyfuss was outstanding better than remake!! 5 stars
1/26/04 laurie still love it 5 stars
1/24/04 Mary Rent this before you watch TV version. See the difference - original much better. 4 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Rock-solid Hollywood schmaltz, with fine performances all around. 5 stars
1/17/04 Robin loved the movie...Richard Dreyfuss was a hoot.... 5 stars
1/17/04 William Not Great, but Very Good, Somewhat Better than Remake 5 stars
1/16/04 MG Stays interesting. Blatent overacting by Mason. Fine performances by the rest of cast. 4 stars
1/13/04 Jack Sommersby Engaging, with a spectacular Dreyfuss, but Mason is a real drag. 4 stars
1/03/03 R.W. Welch Nicely written with engaging performance by Dreyfuss. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  30-Nov-1977 (PG)
  DVD: 18-Jan-2000

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