“I wouldn’t like him if I liked him!”
When her boyfriend suddenly leaves one night and sublets their apartment, a woman (Marsha Mason) and her ten-year-old daughter (Quinn Cummings) find themselves living with an aspiring actor (Richard Dreyfuss) who grates on Mason’s nerves — but can the trio eventually learn to get along?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Actors and Actresses
- Herbert Ross Films
- Neil Simon Films
- Richard Dreyfuss Films
- Romantic Comedy
- Single Mothers
Richard Dreyfuss became the youngest actor (at age 30) to win a Leading Role Oscar for his performance in this adaptation (directed by Herbert Ross) of an original screenplay by Neil Simon. The central idea originated between Simon and his then-wife Mason as a funny love story between smart people, hearkening back to the days of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. It was originally entitled Bogart Slept Here, and set to be directed by Mike Nichols, star Robert De Niro, and take place in Los Angeles — but due to a variety of circumstances, it shifted gears entirely to become a NYC-based romantic comedy with a different director and lead actor. Overall, the storyline works: giving ongoing (neverending?) housing crunches in New York, the exorbitant cost of living in that city, and the narcissism of actors (yes, it’s entirely believable that Mason’s self-absorbed boyfriend would just up-and-leave the way he did), we can imagine people stuck in a situation exactly like this one.
The real-life individuals wouldn’t sound quite so polished and acerbic in their dialogue and come-backs, of course — but the overall tension feels real. (Who hasn’t been forced at some point to live with less-than-ideal roommates, and make some compromises?) Less convincing to me is that a single mom like Mason would allow herself to rely entirely on a (married) boyfriend for financial support in New York; we see humorous vignettes of her trying to get back in shape to perform as a dancer, but what has she been doing in the meantime?
Eventually, of course, Mason and Dreyfuss fall for one another — and whether you buy the authenticity of their trajectory (and care for them at all) will determine your appreciation for this film. Thankfully, the young actress playing Mason’s daughter (Cummings) Lucy is natural (i.e., not-annoying):
… and while both Dreyfuss and Mason are somewhat manic, we’re willing to excuse this given that they’re both performers in a high-stress city. I found myself rooting for them by the end, and pleased by how things turned out.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Richard Dreyfuss as Elliot
- Marsha Mason as Paula
- Quinn Cummings as Lucy
- Good use of authentic NYC locales
No, though it’s worth a one-time look.
One thought on “Goodbye Girl, The (1977)”
Rewatch (12/7/20). Skip it (in my opinion).
A very unfunny Neil Simon comedy which doesn’t particularly work as a love story either… but it was crassly commercial enough (in a basic sit-com way) to have success at the box office. Dreyfuss won an Oscar; go fig.
I’m generally tough on romantic-relationship comedies. To be at their best, I feel they have to be witty – like ‘Bringing Up Baby’. They don’t necessarily have to be decades-old screwball comedies but I don’t think they’re easy to write. Simon’s work can be very funny – but I never found him to be working on all cylinders when it came to romance comedy.