The Goodbye Girl (1977) was in my Netflix queue, with a prediction of 4 stars. Logline: After being dumped by her live-in boyfriend, an unemployed dancer and her 10-year-old daughter are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor.
I don’t know why, exactly, but it feels like a sucker’s bet, waiting for an old, non-new-release movie to arrive in the mail. Like, I’m sure it’s somewhere on TV or online. Also, with so many of these “I was a two-year-old when this was filmed,” I feel like I’ve already seen them, or parts of them, and eh, what’s the point. Despite this delayed thinking, I moved the film to the top of my queue. Then I spent the weekend crying. Those sloppy menstrual tears that make men roll their eyes. And I was brought back to that time in my life when I was a walking psycho. And just for a moment, I missed the hell out of her.
I’ve been her: the over-analyzer. The pessimist. I was absolutely the crazy girl, not crazy enough to call crazy outright, but had just enough crazy to chase off the right men, and keep the wrong ones wanting more. Really, I could have made money on the way I managed to kill things before they started. It’s why so many of my posts, once upon a blog, involved wishes, wanting so much to find a man who could put up with my crazy. Who didn’t expect me to grow up or change, but who kinda liked my anxiety and unhinged, ape in a cage, ways. I don’t know if I liked being her at the time, but I really do miss her. Does that make any sense?
I miss the way it was just okay to break down and cry, to say the word “hormones,” or blame things on my being a Libra. It was a life lived in feelings, not thought. I didn’t bother with rational. I lived amped up, on fire escapes, falling in love in the rain, being sought after in cabs, strangers running into the street, banging on my taxicab window asking me to please change my mind. It was drama, and it was fantastic.
And THAT is what makes movies sing, makes us sob in a way no man will ever understand: forget the fairytale. We want the sloppy, but it doesn’t make sense, but who the hell cares, somehow we make it make sense love.
I was right. I had seen parts of The Goodbye Girl before, bits and pieces, out of order. While assembling seafood dumplings after one of my spa cuisine classes, I’d caught a few scenes—Richard Dreyfuss with a hump, gnarled fingers, and a “gay lisp”—and I thought, Eh, this part is for the men. Men will think Richard Dreyfuss being forced to play Richard III as a screamingly gay hunchbacked boob is funny. It’s the equivalent of the gratuitous love scene in the shoot ’em ups. I didn’t find any of that funny, but I knew I was supposed to. I feel like so much of me lives in that life, where humor just falls flat for me, it’s too over the top, or too, “Trailer.” You know, the silly scenes they use in trailers to get asses into seats. And I always look around in the theater, amazed. Seriously, you’re laughing at that? It’s almost as if I need a focus group of these crowd laughers, who genuinely seem to laugh at anything Hollywood tells you to.
I never like that kind of humor, the obvious kind. And I guess that’s what’s so hard. Writing a comedy where the humor isn’t about people walking into clear glass walls or being somewhere they shouldn’t be (like under a bed, when people are having sex, at the kitchen table eating take-out, when people are having sex). So much of comedy is actually about suffering, about Agador trying to wear shoes. So I understand trying to show Dreyfuss as tortured, compromised, livid, and I’m sure I’m the only one, but it felt too Trailer.
Still, when it was over, I walked into our New York guest room and told Phil, one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. It just so happens that along with Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron, I’m in psycho middle of the night love with Neil Simon. Going to read every last one of his scripts now, despite the fact that they’re not huge silly high-concept ideas. His are the kind of movies I want to make, even if they do originate from the stage. I’d rather that than have everything feel so staged.