Joshua Beckett throws everything he can at us in "Always Say Goodbye," a 1996 indie feature marking the actor's lone foray into writing, directing, and producing. We get attempts at sweet romance and quirky comedy, meditations on the stalled life of an artist, bits about single moms-to-be and parents slowly losing their minds, yuks that hope to take an honest look at sex, and oodles and oodles of Gen X introspection. It's sort of a smorgasbord of 90s indie cinema plot points, but the go-for-broke attitude leaves the whole film a stale, mediocre mess.
Beckett plays Nick Evans, a wisecracking, struggling artist who spends his days snapping wedding photos instead of the more meaningful art gallery fare he prefers. He has also decided that every first date should end in sex, as you learn so much about a person when you're both naked. (Plus, you get to have lots of sex.) His sister (Polly Draper) is pregnant and unmarried; his parents have split up, leaving his mom (Annie Korzen) to go quietly insane in a more-kooky-than-sad kind of way; he's spending most of his non-sex life moaning about his own problems.
He then meets fashion designer Anne Kidwell (Marcia Cross), who's confident, intelligent, and sexy. What she'd see in this loser, I don't quite understand. And yet they hit it off… and that's pretty much it. There's surprisingly very little going on here. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl have tiniest of spats, boy and girl get back together despite never really being apart. Toss in a little bit about boy figuring out his life, and that's the whole movie.
Which is fine, in theory - I commend Beckett for avoiding the romantic comedy formula that demands more conflict (although, at its core, the movie still follows the formula, just on a softer tone that removes almost all confrontation and will-they-won't-theyness). And yet, that avoidance of cliché is all the movie really has going for it. The quarter-life crisis the story depicts is hardly original and has been done better dozens of times as a common trend of 90s indie cinema. The comic sidesteps into Nick's professional life (he meets all sorts of nutty characters while they're planning their weddings) never result in the kind of laughs for which they aim. And Nick's family troubles feel forced and out of place, dropped in as a cheap way of giving Nick more pressure in his life.
(When the movie looks like it's about to pick up, we get tossed obvious scenes like the one where Nick is told that his art needs work because "maybe you don't know where you're at." This, sadly, is the least clumsy way Beckett could work the story's themes into his script.)
As for Nick himself, he's exactly the whiny, unlikable jerk he's accused of being throughout the film. Which means we simply don't care about him or his stalled life; he's not likable enough to want to root on, and not despicable enough to want to keep watching out of interest. He's as drab a leading man as you can find.
The film has spent the last decade in a bit of limbo, playing the occasional film fest but never receiving a proper release. Its sudden video release appears to be the result of Cross' newfound fame on "Desperate Housewives," with somebody savvy enough to dig out one of her earlier works for a quick cash-in. To her credit, Cross delivers a darn fine performance, taking a rather limp character and giving her enough vibrancy to make her scenes click. As such, she's the only reason to catch this otherwise sub-par offering.
Once again, Indican Pictures slaps us with another of their bland, non-anamorphic transfers. The flat letterbox (1.85:1) image does nothing at all to improve the look of the thing, and in fact only serves to highlight just how weak the grainy film stock of the source material already was. Blah.
The stereo soundtrack is about as average as they get. Sounds fine, but not notable. No subtitles are offered.
Because Indican apparently hates us, the disc starts up with a company logo and a trailer for "Two Men Went To War" that you're unable to skip in any way, not even by fast-forwarding. Which means every single time you want to watch the movie or even check out a single scene or bonus feature, you have to waste a good four minutes while you wait for this crap to play out.
Anyway. Seven short deleted scenes (also in flat letterbox) showcase more of Beckett's weak attempts at verbal wit or a bit of unnecessary plot build-up (or both). The final scene, a five-minute bit between Nick's sister and mother, is actually far more interesting than any scene involving Nick himself. Huh.
"Slideshow" is simply a photo gallery of screenshots from the movie, plus a picture of the DVD cover art.
Finally, we get the movie's trailer, plus previews for a handful of other Indican features.
The movie's mediocre and the presentation is lousy. Of course you should Skip It.