“The Goodbye Girl” (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Actress (Marsha Mason), Best Supporting Actress (Quinn Cummings), Best Picture (Ray Stark), and Writing – Original Screenplay (Neil Simon).
Won Best Actor (Richard Dreyfuss).
Watched August 14, 2012.
A large part of me loves everything about the writing, the characters, and the acting in “The Goodbye GIrl.” There are witty monologues, predictability that only a romantic comedy can bring, and plenty of tears. The film begins with Paula (Marsha Mason) and her daughter (Quinn Cummings) coming home to discover that Paula’s live-in boyfriend has skipped town to be in a film in Italy. Devastated by being “dumped on” by another actor, Paula immediately jumps into dancing, trying to get back in shape so that she can get a job to feed her daughter. Adding insult to injury, she later finds out that her now ex-boyfriend sublet their apartment to an actor from Chicago for the next three months. Incensed when Elliot (Richard Dreyfuss), shows up on her doorstep in the middle of the night, they make a deal with one another. They will share the apartment. This in itself opens the door to both comedy and predictability.
Because Paula had been previously hurt by an actor (or two… or three), she is incredibly hesitant to put any positive feelings into her strained relationship with Elliot. He is an eccentric person who sleeps in the nude, plays guitar at midnight, meditates (loudly) at 6am, and eats only health food. He does very little to help the situation by always pointing out that it is technically his apartment since he paid for it, and he doesn’t have to abide by any of her rules. This continues until one afternoon, when Paula is robbed and Elliot semi-attempts to get her bag back. For the first time, we see a truly good side of Dreyfuss’ character, as well as the crushingly realistic devastation of Mason.
I’ll leave the rest for you to discover, as I am sure you can probably figure it out for yourselves.
I see “The Goodbye Girl” as typical 70s filmmaking. Granted, in the future, I will be much more educated on this decade, but the film stood out to me as something very similar to most of what I have already seen from the era. In that sense, I enjoyed it. It isn’t necessarily something that stands the test of time, with the ever changing American movie taste being what it is, but in terms of the majority of its nominations, I can agree with them.
If we take away the witty, unrealistic dialogue, and watch the scenes together instead of admiring them separately, the story as a whole does not flow in a likely pattern. Things happen either too quickly or too slowly, and Paula’s behavior toward Elliot for most of the film has me wondering how he ever fell for a woman like her. Granted, many of her personality “faults” are rooted deeply within her and make sense due to her character’s past. Something about Elliot makes me feel as if he doesn’t take that sort of nonsense lightly. The rate at which he falls for her threw me completely off guard, so much so that I couldn’t even enjoy the end of the movie–you know, the romantic bit, which is something I normally go gaga over.
Because of this, I gave the film 3 out of 5 stars. If you are a fan of classics from the 70s and have somehow missed this one, please add “The Goodbye Girl” to your list!