Goodbye Lover is a real change of pace for director Roland Joffe, whose previous major work (The Killing Fields, The Mission) was on a rather epic scale. We liked his 1995 adaptation of The Scarlet Letter more than most others seemed to, but that was also in the serious narrative vein of his earlier films. Now Joffe is offering up a very funny, very dark comedy/mystery not quite like anything else we’ve seen. The debut script by Ron Peer is scathingly satirical, looking at Los Angeles lifestyles as if turning over a moldy log and watching the insects scurrying about.
Patricia Arquette plays, with convincing verve, an ambitious real estate broker who alternates listening to inspirational tapes of the get-rich sort with singalongs to The Sound of Music. She is also schtupping her brother-in-law, Don Johnson, who, not inappropriately considering the age difference, seems out of breath most of the time. Johnson is a PR guy who plays the organ at their upscale church. A Bach Magnificat tape takes over for him at the keyboard while the choir rehearses and he plays his own kind of music on Arquette in the choir loft. This all happens within, oh, the first fifteen minutes or so.
We don’t want to tell you so much about the plot that it spoils your enjoyment of the film, and this is a plot that will keep you guessing, with a good many twists and turns, some of them perhaps stretching credibility, but all fun, nonetheless. Dermot Mulroney is handsome in a generally undistinguished performance as Arquette’s husband (Johnson’s brother). He doesn’t seem especially comfortable in this kind of comedy. Mary-Louise Parker plays a secretary at Johnson’s PR firm, also an adequate-but-no-more performance.
Everybody seems to be schtupping everybody else here, and greed is very much in the picture, so can murder be far behind? When Ellen Degeneres comes into the picture as a police detective assigned to the case, the movie ratchets up a notch or two and the laugh rate accelerates. It is her dour energy combined with Arquette’s perky nastiness that keeps things moving along.
As background we are offered a sexually philandering politician (again), Los Angeles real estate that would make Versailles look modest, scenes of the public relations game in action (always an easy target), a eulogy of total hypocrisy by a minister, a boss fondling worry beads, a born again cop as Degeneres’ partner, sex with leather, sex with handcuffs, sex with TV, and a lot of foul, if funny, language. Oh yes, and a really good actor, Vincent Gallo, wasted in a bit role.
The film is stylishly designed and well paced. CV obviously had a good time. You can probably tell if it is your dish of tea from what we’ve already said.
– Arthur Lazere … … …