The Goodbye Girl (1977)


Ex-dancer Paula McFadden (Marsha Mason, Cinderella Liberty) lives with her daughter (Quinn Cummings, TV’s Family) and boyfriend in a New York apartment. After the boyfriend suddenly takes off, Paula finds out that he has sublet the apartment to actor Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws). Paula and Elliot eventually agree to share the flat, and they immediately start getting on each other’s nerves.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I hate living with you, but your conversation is first class.”

Formulaic, but perfectly cast and sharply written romantic comedy (courtesy of playwright Neil Simon) that made zillions at the box-office. Breezily directed by Herbert Ross (The Sunshine Boys and California Suite), The Goodbye Girl offers nothing new — writer Simon himself said that this is The Odd Couple with a gender switch — but it has lots of laughs, and some genuinely touching moments.

Although The Goodbye Girl has always been considered a “Neil Simon-Marsha Mason movie,” I thought Richard Dreyfuss dominated the proceedings with a wonderfully high-energy, funny performance. The versatile actor won the Oscar for Best Actor, and kudos to the Academy for rewarding perfect comedic timing.

Dreyfuss was, in my opinion, even better as a man obsessed with UFOs in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, also released in 1977, but I’m sure that the trophy was meant to reward both performances. Dreyfuss is a joy to watch as he spits out one funny line after another. I would have given him an Oscar just for the way he says, “I-don’t-like-the-panties-hanging-on-the-rod.”

Marsha Mason is Dreyfuss’s equal. Mason’s main challenge was to make her slightly neurotic character likable, and she succeeds. She also has great chemistry with Dreyfuss and little Quinn Cummings. Speaking of Cummings (film debut), she delivers some of the film’s funniest lines. Cummings went on to greater notoriety — she co-starred in the TV series Family (one of my favorite childhood shows).

The cast also includes Paul Benedict (Bently, TV’s The Jefferson), who is hilarious as a misguided theater director. A famous Scottish actor has an uncredited cameo near the end of the film, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise. The film was shot by David M. Walsh (Murder by Death and California Suite), Simon’s preferred cameraman. Dave Grusin (Three Days of the Condor) wrote the delightful music score.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Goodbye Girl is a must-see film for fans of romantic comedies. Highly recommended! Remade as a TV movie, with Jeff Daniels (Terms of Endearment) and Patricia Heaton (TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond). The movie was later turned into a Broadway musical. Color, 111 minutes, Rated PG.


5 responses to “The Goodbye Girl (1977)

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