Say Hello to Neil Simon’s Goodbye Girl…
A romantic comedy-drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat, will they commit? won’t they commit? romance.
Richard Dreyfuss in “The Goodbye Girl” 1977 Extended Movie Trailer, DreyfussFan and photos © Warner Bros Pictures
The Goodbye Girl (1977) tells of 33-year-old Paula McFadden (Marsha Mason) who gave up her dancing career. This is to live with her married lover, Tony and her 10-year-old daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings) from a former marriage. Paula and Lucy are excited and making plans, as both return from a successful shopping trip. The three of them are about to move from Manhattan to the bright lights of Hollywood.
On their return home from the shops, Paula is heartbroken to receive a goodbye letter from Tony. Her goodbye letter from him was read to Paula by Lucy. Paula is shocked and dumbfounded at his sudden surprising departure. On hearing the letter’s contents, it seems Tony’s a bit of a cad.
He’s not just ended his relationship with Paula but has left her and her daughter penniless and homeless. In another whammy, Paula is even more horrified to learn from a neighbour that Tony sublet their flat to his friend Elliot. Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss) arrives to move into the flat in the middle of the night. He comes ready to move in with bags and a guitar. Tony really is a bastard.
Despite Elliot and Paula coming to blows about the ins and outs of his sublease, Elliot allows the pair to stay. She’ll rent a room from him from her and Lucy – when she can afford to – and the three of them can be flatmates.
Paula lays down some strict rules, made out of concern for her “impressionable daughter”. These rules including no drugs, strict times for him to keep quiet as her daughter does her homework and using the kitchen and bathroom when she isn’t.
Elliot adds a few retorts to this list including that he chants with Joss sticks, is into healthy living and plays the guitar to help him sleep (and he sleeps in the nude, and doesn’t own pyjamas). The pair ending up in a heated argument ending up with Paula feeling she doesn’t like him too much. The feeling seems mutual.
Paula tries to get back into her old job by auditioning with a shed load of younger women. She feels old, unfit and fat compared to them. Meanwhile, Elliot has secured a lead in Richard III, but not as he knows it.
The director looking at an alternative version asking Elliott to play his role with Richard as a gay man and in his words “the queen who wanted to be king.” Elliot is not happy with this interpretation. (This part of the storyline is apparently based on Mason’s true experience).
Over time Elliot and Paula continue to clash on and off, especially after he brings a girl home. After what turns into a joint shopping trip with Elliot (also with rules on both sides), Paula’s bag is stolen. The pair during one of their verbal fights after this event end up opening up to each other, him about his acting career and she tells of her unsuccessful love life.
The three unlikely flatmates share a meal and some laughs. During this meal, Paula notices how close her daughter is getting to him. She’s understandably concerned with all the men in Lucy’s life leaving them. As a result, Paula turns down two tickets to see Elliot’s opening night claiming it’s because it’s a school night.
One evening, Paula asks Elliot if he can help with some medication for Lucy who has an upset stomach. He helps with relaxation exercises and by playing soothing music on the guitar. It’s a lovely heartwarming scene with the three of them.
As Lucy sleeps, Paula then lets her guard down to Elliot and tells him more of her hurts with men apologising for her uptight behaviour… but he hasn’t heard her apology as he’s fallen asleep.
The warring pair then get on better, Paula and Lucy watch him in the play and both support him through his bad reviews as it flops. Paula has some work, and he looks after Lucy for her. Then out of the blue, one night Elliot makes a pass at Paula and kisses her. The pair have a date.. and if you want to find out what happened next, the balls in your court.
I loved this well written movie, and the casting of this film was fantastic. With both Mason and Dreyfuss nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress at the Academy Awards, with Dreyfuss winning, Cummings was nominated for Best Supporting Actress as Neil Simon was nominated for Best Screenplay.
Marsha Mason – then Neil Simon’s wife – was fantastically believable as a mother concerned for her daughter – and to some degree herself – letting a new man into her life. Even as a flatmate. Mason’s chemistry with the other main characters was strongly, credibly and accurately played. Her on-screen chemistry with her young co-star Cummings was sweetly shown. This is in their mutually supportive performances where Mason was loving, caring and maternal.
Paula’s guarded character in her initial scenes with Dreyfuss was seen in her speech, stance and behaviour. In time, her voice and body language became softer as her relationship with Elliot moved into a friendship and then a romantic level. Mason was a nice down to earth casting with her appearing much better casting in his role rather than a more glamorous actress would have been.
Lucy was also wonderfully played by her young co-star. At all times, not upstaging her screen mother or Dreyfuss. She appeared to have a fun rapport with those headlining stars as seen in their many scenes together.
Cummings also showing her innate maternal side with Lucy her supporting her mother as she reads the letter. During which she also asked child-like questions. This scene was executed and written beautifully. Cummings was a gifted wee actress for her age. This was confirmed by her co-star Mason who said of her,
“One of my favorite actresses to work with – was nine years old going on twenty-seven. She made ‘precocious’ a wonderful word. Quinn Cummings was a little girl with a very big intelligence. She knew her lines, was as quick and almost as smart as Richard, could land a joke with the best of Marsha and Richard were a perfect match and you could practically see the sparks between them lighting up the screen.hem, and she was a professional.”
However, Richard Dreyfuss in his role as Elliott shined. He gave a sweet, supportive performance. Dreyfuss made Elliot a likeable, trustworthy and honest man and a better man than those Paula had loved and lost. The romantic in you hoped that something would happen where Paula and Elliot would grow close and fall in love.
This pair’s growing chemistry played at a believable pace. They had possibly the most romantic first date in a movie ever. This chemistry between the leads was noted by Neil Simon at Dreyfuss’ audition with Mason who had already been cast. Simon stated,
“Marsha and Richard were a perfect match and you could practically see the sparks between them lighting up the screen.”
It was a surprise to learn this film originally had Robert DeNiro in this role, but it was felt his acting style did not suit the role. Others considered for this role included Jack Nicholson, James Caan and Dustin Hoffman.
But the will they won’t they commit scenes following their date, kept you guessing till the end. So you could say in this movie if you just read this review… it’s twos company but threes a family. But I’ve a feeling many of you won’t have said your goodbye to Neil Simon’s Goodbye Girl.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: 0 /10
This film was reviewed for Moon in Gemini‘s The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen Blogathon. Other reviews with Richard Dreyfuss include Bewitched and The Graduate. Marsha Mason also starred in Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadow and Frasier. Quinn Cummings appeared in The Love Boat.