A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Goodbye Girl is a warm-hearted romantic comedy with an Academy Award-winning performance by Richard Dreyfuss. A struggling actor and a single mom with a precocious daughter are forced by circumstances to share an apartment. First angry sparks fly, and then, happily and predictably, bells ring and love is in the air. There's lots of swearing ("hell," "Christ," "s--t," "bastard," "crap," "goddamn"), occasional sexual bantering, some kissing, and partial nudity in a strip bar. Additionally, a lead character is drunk in one scene. There are two dated gender issues in this 1977 film: a woman desperate to be taken care of by a man, and a subplot in which Dreyfuss' character is asked, to his dismay, to play the lead role in Shakespeare's Richard III as a gay stereotype. That story element, meant as all-out humor, includes two insulting epithets ("fruit fly" and "pansy"), a reference to the actor's concern about the "gay liberation" movement, and an excerpt from the actor's astonishing performance. This funny movie may well inspire some discussion of a changing culture.
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What's the story?
Former dancer Paula McFadden (Marsha Mason) is bereft when her longtime boyfriend moves out in THE GOODBYE GIRL. Not only does he leave callously and unexpectedly, but he has also sublet their apartment, leaving her and her 10-year-old daughter without a place to live. Short-term rescue is at hand when the "sub-lessee," Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss), a growling, intense actor, lets her stay, at least for the moment. They're a mismatched pair: she who now trusts no man and hasn't danced in years, he who is consumed by the challenges of his first off-Broadway acting role. They connect only through their mutual regard for Lucy (Quinn Cummings), the spirited little girl. Paula's quests both to find a job and recover her self-respect after being abandoned yet again start to melt Elliot's resolve. But the road to romance is always bumpy, especially in New York City and especially when impassioned artists with both literal and figurative baggage try to make a go of it.
Is it any good?
Outstanding performances and Neil Simon's stellar writing won the hearts of America in 1977, and they keep this touching romance fresh and engaging decades later. Dreyfuss won the Oscar; all three leads, the screenplay, and the movie itself received Academy Award nominations, Golden Globes, and more. The film's very funny scenes are balanced by touching moments that keep the characters vulnerable and real. A wonderful movie for those who enjoy fairy-tale endings, loving parent-child relationships, and New York City charm. Because of the swearing, mild sexual content, and a plot element that uses a gay stereotype, it's best for teens and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the fact that times have changed since this movie was made. How might Paula's relationships with men be portrayed differently today?
How might today's more progressive attitude toward gay men affect audience response to this portrayal of Richard III? Can we still laugh at a lighthearted spoof?
It's very rare that an actor in a comedy wins an Academy Award. What about Richard Dreyfuss' performance made it special? How many emotions and talents did he display? What skills did the actor use effectively to reveal the warm, sweet man underneath the bluster and demands?
If you could remake this movie, whom would you cast?
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