Friday, October 14, 2011

The Goodbye Girl

TCM showed The Goodbye Girl this afternoon. It's one of those movies that's technically competent and well-acted, bur for some reason I just can't warm up to it.

Marsha Mason stars as Paula McFadden, a divorcée raising a 10-year-old daughter while trying to make it as a dancer on Brodway, a career for which she's getting entirely too old. She's been living with her boyfriend, but he dumps her and sublets the apartment to a friend of his, struggling actor Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss). Having just been dumped and not wanting to take up with another actor, Paula tries to refuse Elliot when he comes to the aparment to take up his lease. But she's not legally in the right, so Elliot gets to live in the apartment. He's even generous enough to let Paula and her daughter stay, but under his odd rules.

You know what's going to happen next, since we've seen this sort of movie a dozen times already. Although Paula and Elliot start off hating each other, they're clearly going to fall in love along the way. And I think that's one of the things that makes this movie a bit tough for me: the fact that it's so predictable.

Second are some of the supporting characters. Mason and Dreyfuss both do quite well with their roles. But Paula's daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings) is just obnoxious. She's in the mold of Virginia Weidler's Dinah from The Philadelphia Story, but Dinah has a lot more adults to stand in opposition too. And Lucy is quite vulgar at times, which doesn't really fit in with a 10-year-old girl. There's also the conflict between Elliott and the director of the off-Broadway version of Richard III in which Elliot is starring (the director is played by Paul Benedict, whom you might recall as Bentley on the TV series The Jeffersons). The director wants Elliot to play Richard III as a flaming homosexual, and is exceedingly overbearing about it. Sure, having to play a badly-drawn character offers some opportunities for comedy, which Dreyfuss pulls off about as well as one can do, but Benedict's character seems too much a stereotype.

Still, I don't think it would be at all correct to call The Goodbye Girl a bad movie. If you want a good romantic comedy and don't mind some foul language, you might well enjoy The Goodbye Girl.

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