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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Goodbye Lover
Goodbye Lover
Fox Cinema Archives // R // February 23, 2016
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted May 12, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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Look at the box for Goodbye Lover, and there are quite a few reasons to be intrigued. First of all, there's that picture of the film's star, Patricia Arquette, staring seductively in front of a purple-and-orange backdrop that I interpreted all these years as indication of a futuristic sci-fi movie. Flip it over, and you'll discover the movie's eclectic cast: Arquette, Don Johnson, Dermot Mulroney, Mary-Louise Parker, Ellen Degenres, and Vincent Gallo -- A-listers are fun, but this is a strong and unusual roster of extremely likable character actors. And then there's the director, Roland Joffe, who made his name with Oscar-winning true story drama The Killing Fields, then inexplicably used that Hollywood cachet to produce the Super Mario Bros. movie.

Ben Dunmore (Johnson) is having an affair with the gorgeous and sexually playful Sandra (Arquette), for whom the church organ room is not off-limits as a hook-up spot and who is happy to dip into the closets of her clients as a real estate agent for some extra outfits when she and Ben see each other. The only problem is that Sandra is Sandra Dunmore, wife of Ben's brother Jake (Mulroney). Jake is already nursing some burgeoning alcoholism and struggling at the advertising firm where he and Ben work, prompting Ben to reconsider his relationship with Sarah. Sandra, very attached to Ben, reveals to Jake that she's having an affair and threatens to actually tell Jake that Ben is her lover. Ben retreats to his co-worker, Peggy Blane (Parker), but on one fateful night, everyone's destiny changes when Jake calls Ben and reveals that he knows the truth. Ben goes to Jake's apartment, and by morning, Sergeant Rita Pompano (Degenres) and her dorky partner Rollins (Ray McKinnon) are investigating a dead body.

Although the combination of elements in play in Goodbye Lover make for a unique stew, the film itself is fairly pedestrian even when accounting for its flourishes, taking a neo-noir and throwing in a few more layers of exaggerated twists and turns into the mix. Arquette plays the the femme fatale, an over-the-top blend of sexpot and criminal mastermind. Mulroney plays the slight wild card, whose arrogance and confidence prompt him to make certain decisions a smarter man would know were risks. DeGeneres is the wry veteran detective whose gut instincts tell her that something is going on beneath the surface, even as her naive partner tries to convince her otherwise. Parker is the sweet, innocent girl who may have a bit of femme fatale beneath the surface. Finally, there's Johnson, playing a relatively decent schlub who thinks his biggest mistake was sleeping with his brother's wife, rather than sleeping with Sandra in particular.

The fatal flaw with the film is that Joffe never really invests in any of these characters as people. The film hardly seems to have a protagonist, as the focus shifts abruptly from one person to another, with no real rhyme or reason as to whether or not the character in question is a sympathetic one. Before long, the movie feels less like a mystery involving people who could do anything and more like a screenwriting exercise, something to be observed from a distance as an experiment rather than felt or actually invested in. The script, written by Ron Peer, Joel Cohen, and Alex Sokolow, attempts to take unexpected turns when it comes to characters' motivations being sincere or insincere, where allegiances lie, and exaggerating its ideas to the point of parody, but it never really clicks.

Joffe also introduces some elements that fail to stick, including a couple of seemingly arbitrary fake-outs in which a few minutes of action turn out to be imagined or potential outcomes, only for a different one to occur instead. What purpose this is meant to serve or what it's supposed to accomplish remains vague right up until the end. Visually, the film is fairly unimpressive, with the occasional unconventional shot choice failing to make up for the movie's general lack of atmosphere. Despite the silliness of the film, it never registers as a comedy or a thriller as it plods along toward a finish line involving characters it's unlikely anyone is rooting for, paired up for reasons nobody could have predicted. Wikipedia notes that the film's ending was reshot, which makes perfect sense: it points the film in the closest thing there is to a crowd-pleasing ending. In truth, the movie's already too far off-course to save it.

The DVD
Not much has changed for Goodbye Lover in its transition from a regular pressed DVD to an MOD DVD, except for its distributor. The art of Arquette mentioned at the top of this review has been re-used for this release, although the back cover art has turned into a generic template utilized by all 20th Century Fox MOD DVDs, both of which are now inkjet-printed on cardstock-style paper. The one-disc DVD-R release comes in an eco-friendly Amaray (the nice kind, with no holes), and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Unfortunately, what little has changed for the movie has generally changed for the worse. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer seems to have remained the same, with similar print damage, burned out white highlights, and other minor quibbles that indicate the age of the master (even though, on the whole, it looks fine, with a reasonable amount of detail and generally strong colors). What hasn't remained the same are the audio and language options. The original DVD sported a 5.1 track, while this disc has only a 2.0 stereo iteration, which sounds pretty run-of-the-mill when it comes to both action and dialogue. There are also no subtitle or caption options on this disc.

The Extras
Finally, the theatrical trailer and production notes that served as bonuses on the original DVD have gone MIA, leaving the viewer with bupkis.

Conclusion
If you don't own the uneven but unique Goodbye Lover and want to, don't bother picking up this DVD-R version of it. Track down a copy of the older DVD, or better yet, get the same master in passable high definition on a digital service. The disc earns a "Skip It", the movie gets a half-hearted Rent It.


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