Goodbye Lover Movie Review

A darkly comic, manifold double-cross, murder-for-insurance-moneymovie, "Goodbye Lover" invokes film noir by way of Hitchcockand Tarantino as it follows a cast of sexpot ne'er-do-wells through a plotof increasingly familiar twists.

Patricia Arquette stars as Sandra Dunmore, an oddball,fashion victim, femme fatale in a blonde pageboy 'do, who seduces her brother-in-lawwhile plotting her husband's murder -- or so it seems at first.

Said brothers -- Dermot Mulroney (husband, misanthropicdrunk) and Don Johnson (cocky Casanova) -- are both insured for millionsby the upscale public relations firm at which they are executives, and,under the enticement of Sandra, have each developed nefarious designs onthe other.

So when Ben (Johnson) takes a header off the balcony ofbrother's high-rise, Architectural Digest condo, shifty Sandra and Jake(Mulroney) stand to collect a tidy sum. That is, until seemingly sugar-sweetPeggy (Mary-Louise Parker) shows up with proof of her weekend-in-Vegasmarriage to the recently deceased.

Naturally, more murder plots and betrayals must ensue andSandra's whole plan is complicated by the presence of a sardonic, bitterpolice detective (pitch-perfect Ellen DeGeneres), who just refuses to buyBen's deca-story drop as an accident.

Directed by Roland Joffe (who, amazingly, was not run outof Hollywood after "The Scarlet Letter"), "Goodbye Lover"turns up the volume on all the traditional elements of noir and dark comedy.

The dialogue is packed with deliciously delivered doubleentendres. Arquette plays her dangerous woman with an ironic wink -- she'saddicted to self-help tapes and cheerfully sings along to "The Soundof Music."

The editing is resourceful and silky smooth, the photography(by the ingenious Dante Spinotti who gave "L.A. Confidential" and "Heat" suchdistinctive looks) is packed with new takes on old-fashioned swings, pansand Dutch angles.

But for all his stylistic and creative delivery, Joffenever quite finds a comfortable pace for building to a punchy climax withthis somersaulting tale. And it has one other big problem: Accustom tothe kinds of overly-complicated twists "Goodbye Lover" throwsour way, audiences are just too savvy anymore to be fooled by what themovie holds back to spring later (of course Parker isn't as innocent asshe seems).

"Goodbye Lover" limps along because of theseshortcomings, but what it lacks in direction is partially makes up forin a few choice performances.

Arquette is perfectly cast as a sexy flake. Ray McKinnon("The Net") is a great foil for DeGeneres, asher half-hayseed idealist, half-spiritual humanist partner who can't helpbut be flustered by her seen- it- all- and- never- cared- to- begin- withattitude.

But the movie's scene stealer, by design, is DeGeneresherself. A dowdy, paunchy goof on the "Cagney and Lacy"-typecop, she's a steamroller of cynicism who devours corn dogs during interrogationsand never bothers with feigned sympathy ("Put a sock in it, sister.You're wasting good mascara.").

She's every bit as good here as she was in last month's"EDtv,"which was her best acting (as opposed to stand-up) performance to date.She could have a healthy career with these kinds of roles, and I, for one,hope she does.


Goodbye Lover Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, Friday, April 16, 1999


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