Down From the Shelf ~ The Goodbye Girl

The Facts:

Synopsis: After being dumped by her live-in boyfriend, an unemployed dancer and her 10-year-old daughter are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor.

Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, Quinn Cummings  

Director: Herbert Ross

Rated: PG

Running Length: 111 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  While she was married to Neil Simon, Mason had a heck of a successful career.  Of her four Academy award nominations two of them came from work she did with her husband.  In the case of The Goodbye Girl, it was Drefyuss that would bring home Oscar gold and it’s not underserved.  As Elliot Garfield, Dreyfuss gives one of his very best performances by capturing the humor and drive of his character and he plays well off of Mason’s energy.  Mason also admirably takes on the unlucky in love single mom role with gusto and honesty – her dance audition scene is both darkly comical and heartbreaking.  Cummings also nabbed an Oscar nom for her work here as Mason’s wise-cracking daughter and she tempers the funny with a few great moments of sadness.  That’s what I really loved about this piece.  Each character has moments of great levity but we are shown that the humor usually is masking some sadness within.  Dreyfuss wants to do good work, Mason wants that good old-fashioned thing called love, and Cummings wants a male figure that won’t vanish overnight.

Simon’s dialogue is crisp and not too insider-y even though most of the action revolves in and around the New York Theater scene of the 70’s.  Ross directs the players well though the script being quite Simon-y there are times when it feels a bit stage based (no wonder it was adapted into a musical about a decade later). 

The comedies of the 70’s ran the gamut from cerebral to slapstick and this one fits nicely into middle.  I laughed out loud several times but realized that I wasn’t necessarily laughing at the words but the situations themselves.  It’s sincerely funny and does feel timeless on the whole.  Remove some of those hairstyles and bellbottoms and the film would still work as a modern piece.