The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1977 Neil Simon comedy 'the goodbye girl' aptly proves both that sometimes they come back and that you can go home again. Archive digging this one out of the vault 40 years after your not-so-humble reviewer having the thrill of being out on a school night (and experiencing agony of missing "Welcome Back Kotter" to do so) to watch the film in a theater shows that this one easily passes the test of time.
Richard Dreyfuss earning the distinction of being the youngest man to win the Best Actor Oscar for "goodbye" is the tip of the iceberg regarding the accolades for this film. The Golden Globes and BAFTA also grant him best actor status for that role. Further, the film is the Golden Globes choice for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. That organization additionally awards Marsha Mason the Best Actress honor.
The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "goodbye" provides a nice sense of the basis for the aforementioned fuss.
"goodbye," which New Yorkcentric playwright Neil Simon writes, is a notable example of the Manhattan-based films of the late-80s. A close cousin is the 1977 Woody Allen classic "Annie Hall." The ending of "goodbye" stirs thoughts of earlier New York classic "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by having an uber-emotional climax on a rainy New York street followed by a poignant theme playing over the closing credits.
On a more general level, "goodbye" has elements of the late '70s sitcom "Mork and Mindy." The starting point of this comparison is a hyperactive and easily agitated Dreyfuss outshining the less emotive Mason in her straight woman role in the same manner that frantic Robin Williams literally and figuratively runs circles around mousy Pam Dawber. The similarities extend to Mason's Paula McFadden leading a challenging but largely even-keeled live until odd hairy "alien" from Chicago Elliot Garfield literally shows up at her doorstep and almost immediately begins sharing her living space.
The circumstances that lead to the loath at first sight for "odd couple" Paula and Elliott are that divorced Paula is living alone with her daughter in the apartment recently (and abruptly) vacated by actor ex-boyfriend/leaseholder Tony. The "crimes" of Tony including subletting the apartment to Elliott without the knowledge of Paula lead to her having a nudist, guitar-playing, health nut, meditation freak living in the next bedroom. Anyone familiar with these '70s films or with the work of Simon know that Paula and Elliott will be jointly chanting mantras within an hour of reel time.
The charmingly sadistic Simon mines great humor from repeatedly humiliating our leads in the period between despise and desire. Elliott gets the worst of it in having his director (perfectly played by Paul "Mr. Bentley" Benedict of "The Jeffersons") insist that Elliott play Richard III much more as a queen than a king. That leads to a desperate Elliott essentially becoming a pimp. For her part, 30-something Paula must return to a physically grueling career as a dancer, work as eye candy at a car show, and become so broke that she must scoop up uncooked spaghetti from the street.
Simon the Sadistic does grant our couple happiness only to yank it away in a manner that reflects the worst insecurities of Paula based on her traumatic romantic past. This leads to one of he best lines in the film in which Elliott states that he hates the prior men in the life of Paula who prevent her from being happy with him.
This leads to the aforementioned rainy scene in which history is repeating itself in the form of Elliott heading out to literally seek fame and fortune, leaving Paula and her daughter behind with a sense that the man in their lives is falsely asserting that he is just going to the corner for a package of cigarettes.
Simon shows why he gets the big bucks in providing a variation of the Hollywood ending in the form of a drenched and distraught Audrey Hepburn seeking her soaked discarded cat. Resistance is futile regarding knowing that Simon is serving up schmaltz but falling for it anyway. That bastard then hits the audience with a closing theme that has even more impact than the "Tiffany" closing tune "Moon River."
The following YouTube clip of a groovy American Bandstand performance what can be considered "Paula's Theme" (ala "Arthur's Theme" from the same era) provides a sense of what Simon has in store for "goodbye" rookies.
The apt far-from-final goodbye regarding this post is that "goodbye" is a witty romantic comedy that shows what people who know what they are doing behind and in front of the camera can accomplish.
The tagline "everyone deserves a chance at finding happiness" for the 2016 gay-themed drama perfectly sums up the theme of this low-key tale of conversion therapy. The March 14, 2017 breaking glass pictures DVD release of the film is must-see for any family struggling with issues related to having a gay teen; it simply is a well-told story for the rest of us.
Seeing Tom "Luke Duke" Wopat as insensitive widowed dad Richard and Gregory "Gonzo" Harrison as religion-based conversion Dr. Gallagher add an '80stastic element to the movie. Dreamy 20-something Michael Grant keeps up with the veterans in his portrayal of James at 19.
The following YouTube clip of the "Fair Haven" trailer highlights the performances and shows how it delivers its message with a light touch.
Wopat and Grant have some of their best moments during the uber-awkward homecoming of James. The walk of shame from the bus to the family truck relates to being fresh out of a long-term stay at a conversion therapy facility. Richard is none too proud of his boy, and James looks as if he is returning from war.
Former piano prodigy James learns on the short ride to the family apple orchard in Vermont that Richard has spent the money set aside for tuition at the acclaimed Berklee School of Music in Boston on the operating expenses of the orchard that his father started. Richard noting with only a slight edge in his voice that other expenses included the therapy further establishes the dynamics in the Grant family. Another aspect of this subtlety is that several scenes in addition to the homecoming show that the character named Richard can be a total dick.
The aforementioned low-key vibe of the film continues with James being a typical t-shirt and jeans wearing farm boy whose drab bedroom looks like the personal space of an all-American boy-next-door. He is much more Clark Kent than high-school drama club queen. One strongly suspects that our hero has never heard of Ethel Merman or Carol Channing.
Well-placed flashbacks of the therapy provide context for the present-day activity. For example, James soon encountering former boyfriend/fellow t-shirt and jeans guy Charlie triggers a scene in which Gallagher gently asks James if he has been intimate with another man.
The scenes with Gallagher further establish that his kind and gentle approach is to counsel his "patients." He understands the nature of their desires and provides a safe place for them to discuss them and for him to convince them why they are wrong. His idea of success is to substitute homosexual desires with heterosexual ones but does not seem consider with the corresponding damage to the psyche.
Other drama comes in the form of James seeing if the daughter of a preacher man can reach and teach him. Their awkward first date and not much better subsequent interaction shows that James is trying very hard to please his father and society but that his heart is not in it. One also feels sorry for the daughter regarding the ultimate possibility of an unhappy marriage to James, who does not show her much affection and spends most weekends with Charlie under a pretense.
A related issue with its own form of repression is a struggle that many kids from rural backgrounds face. Richard feels strongly that James stay at home and devote his entire life to the orchard, but James desperately wants to be a concert pianist regardless of whether he shares his bed with a man, a woman, or no one.
The symbolism regarding the element of how ya gonna keep 'em on the farm extends to a real-life Oliver and Lisa Douglas yuppie couple who want to buy the orchard to convert it to an organic operation. The response of stubborn and old-world Richard is that apples are already organic because they grow out of the ground; James sees the offer as a way out and recognizes that the times they are a changin'.
Less subtle symbolism exists regarding this tale of sin and temptation being set in an apple orchard.
The subtlety and realism continues to the climatic final scenes. An event that forces every player to come to terms with their new reality changes the lives of each of them. Just as in real life, no one gets everything that he or she wants but achieves adequate happiness to keep going.
This discussion illustrates that, like virtually every breaking DVD release, "Fair Haven" is notable for avoiding most gay film stereotypes. One can easily image a film about conversion therapy to be either high camp or a melodrama and for James and Charlie to be doe-eyed twinks who prance around the orchard in short denim cut-offs and Daisy Duke shirts that are barely buttoned and cinched at the waist. Instead, we get the much more substantive story of a man who has already lost his wife at a relatively young age and has a son who is a good kid but has desires that Dad can neither understand nor accept.
The bushel of breaking extras this time include an in-studio music video of Wopat, 35 minutes of cast interviews that begin with Wopat discussing his childhood on a Midwest farm, and both deleted scenes and a look behind-the scenes.
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