The Goodbye Girl (2004)

The Goodbye Girl (2004)
 
 

It's Goodbye Again

Patricia Heaton in The Goodbye Girl (2004)

Scouting around the internet for information on this 2004 version of Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl" I found exactly what I expected, plenty of people questioning why they had to remake it when the 1977 version works, even bemoaning that it is scene for scene identical. I don't know why someone decided to remake "The Goodbye Girl" and the original probably is sharper and funnier, as of writing I haven't seen it, but this version which stars Jeff Daniels and Patricia Heaton works even if it doesn't take a genius to know how things are going to play out. Much of the reason why it works is because of the likeability of the stars Jeff Daniels and Patricia Heaton but also Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Heaton's smart daughter.

At 36 Paula McFadden (Patricia Heaton - The Engagement Ring) knows her career as a stage dancer is near its end as she can't keep up with the younger dancers but her actor boyfriend Tony is due to be taking her and her daughter Lucy (Hallie Kate Eisenberg) to live with him in California where he has a role on a TV movie. But Tony clears off to Europe without them and has sublet the apartment to Elliot Garfield (Jeff Daniels - Blood Work) without telling Paula. Despite attempts to stop him moving in Elliot succeeds and graciously allows Paula and Lucy to stay despite constant tension between them. And just to make matters worse Elliot has to deal with a director who wants him to camp up a classic Shakespeare character.

Jeff Daniels in The Goodbye Girl (2004)

So as I said I've yet to see the original version of "The Goodbye Girl" so this isn't a comparison review which bemoans yet another pointless remake. What I can say is that watching a bearded Jeff Daniels he plays the part in a Richard Dreyfuss sort of way which makes me wonder whether he and Patricia Heaton were not so much making a new version but re-enacting the old version.

Anyway the strength of "The Goodbye Girl" is that Neil Simon's storyline of an odd living situation is fun. It maybe obvious that the initial antagonism will dissolve into friendship and romance but the various situations and dialogue is still entertaining. There is a simple charm to it which works in the modern setting and the set piece gags such as when Paula is forced to do car demonstrations are entertaining.

What also helps "The Goodbye Girl" is that the likeability of the cast with Patricia Heaton and Jeff Daniels delivering plenty of charm. As I said I suspect Heaton and Daniels were probably enacting how Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason played it in the original version but there is nothing wrong with that as the characters work. And that is especially the case when it comes to Hallie Kate Eisenberg who is just the right level of smart and pragmatic as Lucy.

What this all boils down to is that this 2004 version of "The Goodbye Girl" may not be as good as the 1977 original but it still works. Some of that is down to Neil Simon's writing but just as much down to the likeability of Jeff Daniels and Patricia Heaton.

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