Sunday, January 08, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Goodbye Girl (1977) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Neil Simon comedy THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977) was recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

I saw THE GOODBYE GIRL multiple times when it was first released in theaters, but it had literally been decades since I last watched it. I was curious how the movie would hold up, and I'm pleased to report that the answer is "very well."

Marsha Mason plays Paula, a New York dancer who is also the mother of precocious young Lucy (Quinn Cummings). As the movie opens, Paula has just been dumped by her live-in actor boyfriend -- and what's worse, he held the lease on their apartment and sublet it to another actor, Elliot (Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss).

Paula reluctantly agrees to let Elliot move into one of the bedrooms, and they struggle to peacefully coexist while also coping with career problems. Eventually the couple start to fall for each other, but Paula struggles with the fear she'll be dumped yet again.

As with many movies, I don't necessarily find the characters relatable -- the mother who makes poor life choices which affect her daughter, the foul-mouthed child -- but they're quite entertaining. The Oscar-nominated script by Simon (who was married to Mason at the time) is sharp, with some memorable lines, and the peek into the lives of non-star performers feels authentic. One of my favorite little scenes is when the somewhat out of shape Paula auditions for a show, and her interaction with the choreographer casting the show.

The movie is ultimately a warm "feel good" story, perfect for curling up with a cup of tea and a blanket and watching on a rainy day -- or a snow day, depending on where you live!

Dreyfuss moved into the big time in the '70s thanks to a string of successful films including AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973), JAWS (1975), and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), culminating in his Best Actor Oscar for this film. In addition to a screenplay nomination, THE GOODBYE GIRL was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.

One of the things I enjoyed seeing the movie again was that it provided interesting reminders of the little ways life has changed since I saw it as a teen in the '70s, a time which doesn't seem all that long ago (grin). For instance, Elliot's only way to communicate with Paula at the outset is from a pay phone booth, and he's down to his last dime; pay phones, of course, have pretty much vanished from existence.

Or there's a scene where Lucy opens Cokes for herself and her mother; the pull tabs come all the way off the cans! That was a forgotten memory which made me chuckle in recognition. And as I watched them drink, I also got to thinking that it would be another half a decade before Diet Coke came into existence. I first tasted Diet Coke at a Disneyland Cast Member party in 1982, the summer it was introduced.

In another example of how things have changed, THE GOODBYE GIRL is a fairly foul-mouthed film, yet it's only rated PG -- because INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) had not yet come along, accompanied by the brand-new PG-13 rating.

THE GOODBYE GIRL was directed by Herbert Ross and filmed by David M. Walsh. The running time is 111 minutes.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is a nice-looking widescreen print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.

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