I watched The Goodbye Girl a couple of years back and kinda hated it then. I found it artificial, contrived and overly theatrical. I felt like Neil Simon was trying to throw in as many wisecracks and witty lines into the script, and it was quite grating. Re-watching it this time round, well…I actually still feel the same way, except that I don’t hate it anymore. I understand the whole angle it was going for and I can accept why so many people find it a charming film. That being said, I could not help but wonder if I would have appreciated it more as a live theater production. Still, it is a nice, heartwarming tale about falling in love under unlikely circumstances (*coughs* better explored in Annie Hall *coughs*) and I did smile at the end of it.
Certain things definitely improved on this re-watch. Firstly, I thought Richard Dreyfuss deserved his slightly unpopular Oscar win. He has always been the mvp of this film for me, but I really enjoyed his performance this time round. It’s an atypical win for this category, especially if you were to compare it to the other winners of this decade, but I thought it was so damn good. Even when his character was annoying and grating in the beginning, I actually felt sorry for him and understood where he was coming from. And then when we understood the character’s struggles more, with Dreyfuss nailing the vulnerable moments (his sadness after his failed play was pretty heartbreaking), I actually got to appreciating how multi-faceted his portrayal is. He actually has some pretty similar mannerisms to Woody Allen’s performance is Annie Hall, except that I find Dreyfuss a much more charismatic and charming performer. I mean, that rooftop dinner is so cheesy and yet I’ll be lying if I said I wasn’t charmed by it.
On the other hand, I am pretty much with Roger Ebert on Marsha Mason’s performance. I never really appreciated it then, and unfortunately, I still kinda feel the same way. A lot of people are saying that she should have won the Oscar but I totally don’t get this love. Definitely not over Keaton, and I actually would have ranked some of the other nominees over her. While Dreyfuss manages to give a convincing portrayal, I feel that Mason kinda flounders a bit and she never really overcomes the artificiality of the script. In fact, I felt that some of her neurotic tics and line deliveries were quite fake. Maybe I just don’t “get” her acting style, but there are times I found her more annoying than Dreyfuss and no, it is not the character. Most people seem to feel the other way round though.
Overall, The Goodbye Girl was a nice film, but I personally never cared too much for it. I don’t think Neil Simon’s writing is really my kind of thing – or at least on film. Dreyfuss elevates it imo, but as a whole – okay, with nice performance by Quin Cummings and song by David Gates. 3/5