Weekly Wire
Metro Pulse Pooped Pulp

Goodbye, Lover, and hello, dullard.

By Zak Weisfeld

APRIL 26, 1999:  Roland Joffé is a serious man. Or was. It is a gravity that extends well beyond his Continental insistence on using an accent in his last name. Joffé's filmography is a testament to a man who sees movies as a powerful political and artistic force—a means to educate the masses on the cruelty and horror that lurks in the world, on great evils and personal faith. Both The Killing Fields and The Mission were potent films, beautiful and terrible and gutsy in a conservative way.

For no matter how liberal his politics, Joffé's films are tellingly reserved. They are stately pageants of quiet dignity and controlled passions. Joffé is a director who likes his humanism refined, his vistas broad, and his upper lips stiff. Which makes one wonder what compelled him to take the helm of Goodbye, Lover—an unabashedly pulpy film that couldn't be further from Joffé's canon if it were a blaxploitation comedy.

Goodbye, Lover is the expectedly twisty tail of a wife, her husband, her lover (her husband's brother), his (the brother's) wife (and other brother's lover), and four million dollars. There's plenty of sex, no shortage of murder, and a wise-cracking cop, which is all as it should be. The one element that is ruinously absent is the fun.

Patricia Arquette is wife and femme fatale Sandra Dunmore, a real estate agent given to extremely short skirts and wild sex in awkward places. Arquette is well suited to the short skirts and the sex—no current actress, with the exception of Lucy Lawless, is as physically suited to the demands of pulp. She is not, however, terribly strong in the fatale areas. Despite her sexpot looks and a charming toughness, she seems without malice, neither greedy enough nor ruthless enough to kill for money. The failure to cast Linda Fiorentino for the role is exacerbated by Joffé's clumsy touch with actresses in general. Were there any women at all in The Killing Fields or The Mission? As it is, Sandra is given two options—pretending to cry or pretending to seduce, neither of them with much heart.

The saddest part is that she is the best character in the film. Mary Louise Parker would disappear from the film altogether if it weren't for the occasional close-up on her lips. And Dermot Mulroney and Don Johnson, as the brothers Dunmore, ably demonstrate why their work is infrequently seen on the big screen. Both seem oddly distant from the demands of the genre, like mud wrestlers afraid to get their bikinis dirty.

Which could just as easily be said for Joffé. Granted, the script by Ron Peer is nothing to be terribly excited about. The plot, even by genre standards, is run of the mill at best. It has the requisite twists and turns, but only the requisite. The red herrings smell as if they've been left out in the sun too long—and a few seem to be missing altogether. About the only good thing about the banalities of the plot are that they lower, almost far enough, the audience's expectations for the dialogue. Outside the occasional double entendre, and the incredibly annoying quips of detective Rita Pompano (Ellen DeGeneres), the dialogue in Goodbye, Lover is as flaccid as Bob Dole before Viagra.

None of which, by itself, is enough to doom Goodbye, Lover. After all, the pleasure to be found in a genre film rarely come from originality. Instead they tend to pop out of the tension between irony and sincerity. A good pulp film is not high brow with bad intentions, it's an entirely different beast. The good ones are made with a love of the conventions, and an understanding that they are essentially limiting—and desperately need to be broken, or at least mocked. The bad ones come in many forms, one of which is Goodbye, Lover.

I would be curious to know what compelled Joffé to take on this project. Was it financial desperation, or an inverse Woody Allen syndrome? Maybe he just got tired of being the genocide guy. Regardless, what comes through in Goodbye, Lover is a condescending distance, a distance that makes this the worst kind of pulp thriller—the boring kind.

Weekly Wire Suggested Links

Page Back Last Issue Current Issue Next Issue Page Forward

Film & TV: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics . Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . Metro Pulse . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch