The Goodbye Girl

In 1977. A 30 year-old Richard Dreyfuss became the youngest ever to win the Oscar for Best Actor, a record he held until 2003 when a slightly younger Adrien Brody dethroned him. He was awarded this honour not for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which was released that same year and still considered a classic, but for this rom com (I hate this movie already for making me use that term) from playwright Neil Simon. Marsha Mason plays Paula who arrives home to discover that, not only has her actor boyfriend left her, but he’s also has sublet the apartment to another actor named Elliot (Dreyfuss), leaving her and her ten year-old daughter homeless. Paula and Elliot reluctantly agree to share the apartment and they clash for awhile before falling in love.

What it’s lost with age. As soon as The Goodbye Girl begins, it ffeels old. The score, dialogue, and hammy acting all seem to come from a 70s cheesy sitcom rather than a Hollywood classic. I’ve always admired Simon as a writer and, when I don’t feel like cooking, I can sometimes be found in my local Indian restaurant reading one of his plays while I eat- often laughing out loud. But his lines are too often fumbled by the actors here and it’ll only be when playing some of them over in my head moments later that I realize that it was actually a great line.

What still holds up. Honestly, not much. Things pick up a llittle when Elliot shows up and, whether or not the performance is Oscar-worthy, Dreyfuss has a lot of fun with the dialogue and is almost always interesting to watch. Even he, though, is sometimes a little over-the-top for my taste. The funniest lines and the funniest moments are all his though. Watching him attempt to reluctantly play Richard III as flamboyantly gay is probably the highlight.

Bottom line. I hate to pick on a movie that is so old and inoffensive but I can’t see The Goodbye Girl having much to offer a modern audience. I don’t disagree with the Academy for giving Dreyfuss the Oscar that year, I just wish it was for Close Encounters.

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