The Goodbye Girl (1977)

The Goodbye Girl (1977)

Synopsis:

Paula (Marsha Mason, Max Dugan Returns) lives with her young daughter (Quinn Cummings, The Babysitter) and boyfriend in a Manhattan apartment. Unexpectedly, the boyfriend takes off and Paula finds out that he has sublet the apartment to actor Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws). After some tough negotiations, Paula and Elliot decide to share the flat and the battle of sexes erupts almost immediately.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Familiar but perfectly casted and sharply written comedy (by playwright Neil Simon) that made zillions at the box-office. Directed by Herbert Ross (The Turning Point), The Goodbye Girl offers nothing new — writer Simon himself said that this is The Odd Couple with a single gender switch — but it is a funny, even heartfelt, romantic comedy without the cynical attitude of today’s movie romances.

The Goodbye Girl was allegedly based on actor Dustin Hoffman’s early life as a struggling actor in New York. At some point, the producers toyed with the idea of casting Hoffman, but Simon settled on Richard Dreyfuss. The actor received an Oscar for his performance 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 Close Encounters of the Third Kind, also released in 1977, but I’m sure that the award was meant to reward both (superb) performances. Personally, I would have given him an Oscar just for the way he says, “I-don’t-like-the-panties-hanging-on-the-rod.” Much has been said about Dreyfuss’s stereotypical representation of a homosexual, but the scenes are meant to illustrate the stupidity of such stereotypes.

Marsha Mason is Dreyfuss’s equal. Mason’s (Mrs. Neil Simon) main challenge was to make her obnoxious 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 80s 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 (Tootsie) wrote the delightful music score.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Goodbye Girl is a must-see film for fans of romantic comedies. 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.

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