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The Goodbye Girl

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Image Credit: Warner Bros., 1977, The Goodbye Girl

Image Credit: Warner Bros., 1977, The Goodbye Girl

My Arthur post a few weeks ago got me thinking about another New York movie with a fantastic theme song. Alas it was David Gates, and not Christopher Cross who sang the Goodbye Girl theme, but it’s definitely in the Yacht Rock vein. The Goodbye Girl (DVD/Download) is one of my favorite films, and I’ve seen it so many times I could probably recite it line for line. In fact, it was the first movie I turned to while recovering from eye surgery a few years ago- the snappy dialogue is so brilliant that I didn’t even need to see the screen to enjoy it.

The Goodbye Girl is essentially The Odd Couple with male-female leads instead of two men. Richard Dreyfus plays struggling actor Elliott Garfield, who sublets a New York City apartment from another actor acquaintance. Marsha Mason plays that actor’s recently-dumped girlfriend Paula McFadden, who is shocked to find a soaking wet Elliott at her doorstep with a signed lease. Broke and desperate, she agrees to let him move in even though he’s, as she puts it, “another goddamn actor”. Luckily, Richard Dreyfus is incredibly charming, and his performance as Richard III off-off-off Broadway is side-splittingly funny (keep an eye out for Waiting for Guffman’s Paul Benedict as the director!). Paula and Elliott butt heads at first but then of course he wears her down. Paula’s daughter Lucy is played by Quinn Cummings, who was one of the youngest Oscar nominees in history for her performance. My mother always laughs when Paula says of her daughter, “you were never four-and-a-half, you were born 26.” Apparently, so was I.

My drink references one of my favorite scenes (there are so many!) when Elliott and Paula decide to make amends and go dutch on a home-cooked spaghetti dinner.  He stops to buy Chianti, she gets mugged, and in the ensuing chaos spills all of her groceries in the middle of the street.  Of course she blames Elliott, and the Chianti.  While watching The Goodbye Girl, I recommend drinking a New York Sour.

New York Sour

2 oz Bourbon

1 oz simple syrup

1 oz lemon juice

Chianti red wine

Mix together bourbon, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake until chilled, then pour into a rocks-filled tumbler.  Slowly pour chianti over the back of a spoon so it floats on top.

New York Sour

It’s hard to imagine exactly what Elliott sees in Paula- she’s needy, she’s whiny, she’s “animal crackers”, and wants nothing more than to spend his money decorating their apartment (notice I said his money, not hers- Paula seems content to let a man take care of her, as soon as she can hook one). As a feminist narrative it’s a bit lacking, but I can overlook it all for 70’s-era Richard Dreyfus. He’s manic, he’s funny, he’s romantic- yes, Mr. Garfield, you definitely “charis” me. Cheers!