(a “goodbye doesn’t mean forever” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
I have seen a whole lot of Neil Simon’s plays turned into films, and I want to say I’ve enjoyed most of them. It’s THE GOODBYE GIRL, though, that is my all-time favorite of Simon’s plays turned into films. It comes down to that closing song of the film and the lyric line, “goodbye doesn’t mean forever,” that really gets me in the end, ironically. It’s that “goodbye doesn’t mean forever” when love says, “goodbye,” but persevering and giving love one more chance is all about “hello.” It’s that “lost” of “goodbye” that is that “found” of “hello.”
Poor Paula! She has met yet another actor offstage in Elliot Garfield, another actor set to exit that stage of her life like all the previous actors before. She knows how the play of her love life has gone so far: She meets an actor, she falls in love, and the actor of enormous ego (is there any other kind of actor?) chooses his career over her. “Goodbye, Paula. It’s been swell but it’s time for me to choose my career and myself over you.” Poor Paula! She’s poised to have this repeated to her yet again in Elliot, but Elliot is ego but he’s also eternity. Like Paula’s previous love interests who are actors, Elliot does pursue his career but he pursues Paula even more. And like Paula, Elliot understands that love is the ultimate part to play offstage. I love how Paula tells Elliot that actors know their way around onstage but if you put them in the real world, it’s nothing but trouble. Indeed, I can relate to this!
Neil Simon is the ultimate playwright of ultimate one-liners. I can promise you that when and if you watch this film, you will crack smiles and crack chuckles so many times your cheek muscles will hurt. It’s one one-liner after another in this film until you realize that at the end of the film, you’ve smiled all the potential heartbreak away. It’s the classic “cracking a joke” to manage the breaking of the heart. And there is no better actor than Richard Dreyfus to pull all of this off. Dreyfus won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor playing Elliot, and he’s BOTH hilarious AND humbling as the “hello guy.” Marsha Mason as Paula McFadden is such a joy in this film. She lets us all know that even after all the “goodbyes,” it ain’t over until the “goodbye girl” sings her last love aria. And she ain’t about done singing that one, and we are overjoyed that she ain’t. Quinn Cummings plays Paula’s 10-year-old precocious daughter, Lucy, and Cummings is exceptional in the role. Poor Lucy! She has to bear the brunt of all her mother’s “goodbyes.” She breaks our heart in this bearing, and she is the perfect compliment to Elliot, because she helps him see that her mother is worth fighting for and worth a “goodbye doesn’t mean forever.”
On a more personal note, I have said “goodbye” to so much and so many in my life that I can easily be deemed the “goodbye guy.” And like Paula, I have said “hello” to how I persevered through it all and how it shaped me to be the strong and courageous me that I am today. So much “goodbye” in so much and so many a broken heart but so much “hello” in so much and so many a desperate determination to love yet again. In the end, what is “goodbye doesn’t mean forever” is just “hello does mean forever,” because I will always be led from the “goodbye” to the “hello” of how so much and so many I have grown. Without the “goodbye,” I ask you, can we ever really know the “hello?”
THE GOODBYE GIRL is always a film that I will put on and watch when I need so much or so many a chuckle and a romance. It does BOTH my laugh muscles AND my heart muscles so, so good. “Goodbye doesn’t mean forever” simply means I’m not nearly done saying “goodbye” to this film forever but only “hello” at the next viewing which I’m thinking will be so, so soon.