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Goodbye to All That
Angus MacLachlan, who wrote the well-received dramas Junebug and Stone, tries his hand behind the camera with the divorce dramedy Goodbye to All That. MacLachlan's inexperience at the helm is unfortunately apparent, as most of the visuals are bland and utilitarian, and the first third of the film is too low-energy to be all that dramatic and too awkwardly paced to be all that funny. However, right around the 25-minute mark, the film starts to find its way and, thanks to a great cast, it ends up a pretty good, low-key indie flick.
Paul Schneider, of All the Real Girls and the first two seasons of Parks and Rec, stars as Otto Wall, a dude in his late thirties with a fondness for running races. He also has a knack for physical misfortune because, as his wife Annie (Melanie Lynskey) puts it, "he doesn't pay attention." This attitude clearly extends to his marriage as well, because Annie soon files for divorce and Otto never saw it coming. More dumbfounded than devastated, Otto moves into a new house and tries to move on with his life.
In one of the smartest scenes in the film, Otto logs into Annie's Facebook account, after seeing that she has changed her status to "Single." He ends up finding both exactly what he was looking for and what he didn't actually want to see, which is that Annie has been cheating. He reacts in such horror that he calls Annie and leaves a tortured spew of disconnected cuss words on her voicemail. It's undoubtedly humorous, but also pretty resonant too. Schneider plays Otto as low-key and emotionally detached for most of the film, but he taps into his character's anguish effectively here.
Lynskey meanwhile has the difficult task of playing a character who has suffered with Otto, but who arguably deals with that suffering in a selfish, cruel way. Her performance of Annie seamlessly alternates between being quite reasonable and being maddeningly passive-aggressive.
Otto starts dating again. He hooks up with a hot, also divorced ex-girlfriend named Stephanie (Heather Graham). There's attraction there, but Stephanie is just looking for attachment-free fun and is on her way out the door before the post-coitus afterglow can begin. (Although Heather Graham is prominently featured in the movie's cover art, she is probably in the film for only seven minutes or so.) Otto tries online dating, which leads to another no-strings situation with a younger woman named Mildred (Ashley Hinshaw). Otto's nine-year-old daughter Edie (Audrey P. Scott) thinks he needs help from God to reverse his bad luck, so she takes him to church where he meets Debbie (Anna Camp), a religious woman conflicted about her more adventurous sexual desires.
On top of all these fun but ultimately unfortunate couplings, it turns out Otto has been holding out hope for a reunion with a woman he knew when they were summer camp counselors twenty years ago. Heather Lawless, who has been involved with a bunch of Adult Swim shows like The Heart, She Holler, plays this lost love, Lara, and she successfully steals the movie. As Otto and Lara discuss the past and their turbulent present (Lara is also recently divorced), we see the characters rebuilding a real connection. We could immediately see these characters getting together, but for better or worse, Goodbye to All That isn't interested in wrapping up Otto's situation with a pat ending and leaves things open and somewhat uncertain.
There are some emotionally resonant scenes and some chuckles to be had in Goodbye to All That, but there are also plenty of moments that play as stilted and contrived. Angus MacLachlan shows promise as a filmmaker, but I think I would be more interested in seeing what he works on next rather than revisiting this film at any point in the future.
For the most part, this disc offers a strong widescreen 1.85:1 presentation. Colors are saturated and nicely reproduced, with a slightly muted, autumnal palette. Detail is pretty good for SD, with only a few egregious instances of wonky compression and mosquito noise in a few wide shots. The black level is solid, with pretty decent shadow detail, although sometimes cinematographer Corey Walter goes a little Gordon Willis on scenes and creates pools of murky black (note Paul Schneider's near-lack of eyeballs in the top screencap).
The sound design for this film is surprisingly layered, so while most of the focus is on dialogue -- which comes through loud and clear -- the Dolby 5.1 surround mix offers plenty of ambience in the rear channels. The film relies on classical music cues as score, and these are satisfyingly balanced and powerful. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
Just a trailer, sailor.
If you're feeling bored or adventurous, and you're not expecting to have your mind blown, Goodbye to All That would make a good weeknight movie. It has enough engaging moments and good performances to counterbalance its other, more awkward and tone-deaf scenes. Would I recommend a blind buy? Nah. Rent It.
Justin Remer is a filmmaker, oddball musician, and frequent wearer of beards. His new single, Don't Depend on Me, is now available to stream or download on Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon, Apple, and wherever else fine music is enjoyed.