Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rom-Com 101: "The Goodbye Girl" (1977)

Herbert Ross capably directs Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss in a very enjoyable romantic comedy.

Paula (Marsha Mason) and her young daughter Lucy (the very funny Quinn Cummings) have just been abandoned by Paula's married lover, an actor who suddenly flies to Europe after promising to take them to Hollywood with him. He also forgot to tell Paula that he sublet their New York City apartment to Elliot (Richard Dreyfuss), an actor from Chicago who arrives to do an off-Broadway version of "Richard III."

As with all good romantic comedies, the two cannot stand each other, but agree to share the apartment. Paula is trying to make a comeback as a dancer in musical theater, and Elliot is ordered by his director (Paul Benedict) to play Richard III as a flaming homosexual. Will the two get together? What do you think?

Herbert Ross and writer Neil Simon open the script up well, shooting on location in New York City. For the apartment scenes, Ross does a wonderful job of keeping his camera and angles moving, never letting anyone stand too still for too long. Simon's script is very Simonesque. There are some fall down funny lines, but there is also a lot of pointless yelling, an ingredient of many Simon productions.

Cummings is hilarious, who would have thought a ten year old was capable of flawless comic timing? Mason is sometimes drab as Paula, she changes moods quicker than a gynecologist's waiting room full of PMS patients. Dreyfuss won the Oscar for his Elliot, deservedly, since he lifts his goofy character to another level entirely- a romantic leading man who meditates and sleeps in the nude.

"The Goodbye Girl" is a very good and very funny romantic comedy. Aside from some lame lines and Paula's mood swings, it would stack up well to any rom-com out there today, and that is probably why it was remade for television starring Patricia Heaton and Jeff Daniels. (* * * *) out of five stars.