It’s easy come and easy go,
As every broken heart will know,
And broken hearts are loath to feel
While all the cracks attempt to heal.
If every stranger you befriend
Becomes a stranger by the end,
You might treat love with some dismay
And be surprised by those who stay.
MPAA rating: PG (should be PG-13 for language)
Coming on the heels of Valentine’s Day, the next film chosen by my trusty Viewing Companion (VC) is one of her favorite romances, the kind I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing but ended up liking all the same. As much as I wish Richard Dreyfuss had won an Oscar for Mr. Holland’s Opus, at least he had already received one (the youngest actor ever at that point) for his role in this adaptation of a Neil Simon play, a classic hate/love story between conflicting personalities that inevitably leans toward the satisfying love side.
Dreyfuss plays Elliot Garfield, a struggling actor who subleases an apartment from an old friend, only to find that friend’s former girlfriend Paula (Marsha Mason) and her precocious daughter (Quinn Cummings) already living there, having been abandoned when her ex skipped town. Despite Elliot having every right to force them out and Paula having “nine tenths of the law,” he allows them to stay under strict conditions, and the three grudgingly share the apartment. It’s easy to feel sorry for both Paula and Elliot at different times, and both have their quirks and character flaws. Paula is a wreck trying to get by as a single mother and find work as a dancer after ten years out of practice, while Elliot’s hopes for theatrical glory are dashed by a director who wants him playing Richard III as a flaming homosexual stereotype. Their trials are equal parts funny and pitiful, enlivened by an outstanding script full of eloquent barbs, as one can expect from a Neil Simon production.
The fact that Paula and Elliot can both be sympathetic and abrasive fleshes out their characters and helps them feel real. Paula’s demanding anxiety and Elliot’s neurotic tendencies may grate on each other at first, but the longer they’re together, the better their personalities mesh. Where that relationship goes is an understandable source of worry for Paula, whose affairs with actors never end well, but The Goodbye Girl lends hope that one can always find that person who won’t let you down. Seeing The Goodbye Girl again, I can certainly see why my VC is so fond of it, and while I prefer some other hostility-melting-into-romance rom-coms (You’ve Got Mail, for instance), its clever banter and developed characters make it the classic it is.
Best line: (Elliot, to Paula) “If you were a Broadway musical, people would be humming your face.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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