[Screen It]


(1999) (Patricia Arquette, Dermot Mulroney) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Heavy Extreme Moderate Heavy
Mild None Moderate None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
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Talk About
Extreme Mild Minor Moderate Extreme

Black comedy/Thriller: A woman and her husband, his brother and their office mate, and a cynical detective get wrapped up in a double-crossing scheme filled with seduction, blackmail and murder.
Sandra Dunmore (PATRICIA ARQUETTE) is a real estate agent for the rich, a woman who wants more out of her life which is obvious by her devotion to self-help tapes and the soundtrack from "The Sound of Music." Her ad exec. husband, Jake (DERMOT MULRONEY), on the other hand, is apparently spiraling out of control due to alcoholism.

His older brother and coworker, Ben (DON JOHNSON), a savvy spin doctor and PR executive, is concerned about Jake. That doesn't prevent him, however, from being quite the womanizer and, as such, he's had and is having affairs with various women, both married and single. He's recently set his sights on Peggy Blaine (MARY-LOUISE PARKER), an up and coming subordinate at his firm who's also had her eye on him.

These four people, whose lives are more intertwined than any of them imagine, all want something more out of life. As such, one of them ends up dead, the victim of a setup whose conspirators are looking to make a quick buck -- actually several million of them from the deceased's insurance policy.

Things become more complicated when cynical detective Rita Pompano (ELLEN DEGENERES) and her ever optimistic partner, Rollins (RAY McKINNON) arrive to investigate the death and soon become suspicious of all involved. As the suspects try to cover their bases, they must not only contend with the police, but also with each other as a series of ever developing double- crosses quickly begin to unfold.

If they're fans of someone in the cast or of black comedies, they might, but this one would seem attractive mainly to older teens.
For sexuality, language and violence.
Considering all that occurs by the story's end (sexual affairs, murder, blackmail and hiring a hitman), the only character that most parents will probably find to be a good role model is that of Det. Rollins played by Ray McKinnon.


OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
Not since "A Clockwork Orange" used "Singing in the Rain" during a disturbing attack scene and "Face/Off" played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in the middle of a massive gun battle has a movie taken some beloved music, thrown it into a film completely inappropriate for its theme, and most likely enraged the original songs/movie's diehard fans. Of course we're talking about selections from "The Sound of Music" that appear in this week's entry into the "noirish," black comedy genre, "Goodbye Lover."

Now that doesn't mean we're complaining since the music -- including memorable favorites such as "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "My Favorite Things" and "So Long, Farewell" -- actually helps accentuate the film's mood and overall wacky atmosphere, making for some funny moments.

A more leisurely paced, less outrageous and somewhat more user friendly film than last year's misguided "Very Bad Things," this picture -- like most every other title falling into that genre -- will only appeal to a certain segment of the mainstream viewing audience.

Like any blackened dish served in a restaurant, this offering clearly isn't palatable to all appetites, and if not prepared just right, will either end up leaving a bitter aftertaste or appear too bland to succeed. While not a great black comedy -- let alone an overall film -- this one fortunately has just the right "bad" taste to get the job done and comes off as a moderately entertaining flick (as long as you can tolerate the subject matter).

Oddly sitting on the shelf for nearly a year since its debut in 1998's Cannes Film Festival, this picture is described in the press notes as "film gris" (gray), perhaps explaining why Warner Bros. has kept it out of public sight for so long as they attempted to figure out how to market it. Regardless of how one wishes to attempt labeling the film, it's simply a sexy, black comedy thriller filled with the requisite and purposefully despicable characters whose backstabbing and double and triple crossing will keep you guessing how it will end throughout its near two-hour runtime.

The script, courtesy of screenwriters Ron Peer (his first) and Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (collaborators on "Toy Story" and "Money Talks"), while not quite as harried as many similar entries in the genre, keeps things moving simply through the nonstop double crossing and changing of allegiances. As such, the film often feels a bit too artificially constructed -- as if the trio of writers needed to fulfill a preset quota of twists -- but then again, films of this sort aren't supposed to be based in reality, so some leeway is granted.

That writing trio and director Roland Joffé, significantly departing from his previous works such as "The Killing Fields" and "The Mission," also include some "Ally McBeal" type moments where what we think is shocking reality turns out only to be a character's violent fantasy.

While that's often a fun storytelling device to employ and it certainly tweaks the audience by making such moments mini-twists in their own right, several problems relate to their use. First, such scenes -- also found in last year's "Living Out Loud" and popularized long ago in those Warner Bros. cartoons featuring a daydreaming young schoolboy -- most often represent the unrepressed id.

As such, they usually appear as fantasies of characters who normally wouldn't live-out such violent acts. Since the characters here already do the unspeakable, the "fun" aspect of such imagined scenes is significantly lessened.

Had Joffé and his writing team decided to litter the production with such moments -- thus ensuring that the audience would never know what was real or not -- the effect might have been quite a hoot. Unfortunately, they elected to include only two such moments that only further serve to perpetuate the script's manipulative and somewhat artificial feel.

For what's expected and/or asked of them, the cast and their performances are good. Patricia Arquette ("The Hi-Lo Country," "True Romance") obviously had a lot of fun in her campy role and is particularly effective playing her spin on the traditional femme fatale, while Don Johnson ("Tin Cup," TV's "Nash Bridges") delivers a good take as the smarmy PR exec. Less noteworthy, but still decent in their roles are Dermot Mulroney ("My Best Friend's Wedding") and Mary- Louise Parker ("Fried Green Tomatoes").

One of the more enjoyable performances comes from Ellen DeGeneres ("Mr. Wrong," TV's "Ellen") as the stereotypically cynical police detective. While she doesn't stray too far from other characters she's played in the past (with her casually cynical, smart-aleck comebacks), she's still rather enjoyable in the role and her exchanges with her straight-laced partner, perfectly played by Ray McKinnon, generate most of the film's laughs.

Even so and for the most part, the film doesn't deliver enough humor and is perhaps a bit too relaxed in its storytelling style. While it's moderately entertaining and will certainly hold your interest throughout, it doesn't always fire on all of its needed or appropriate cylinders to make this a noteworthy achievement for its genre. Thus, we give "Goodbye Lover" a 5.5 out of 10.

Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated black comedy/thriller. Profanity is extreme with nearly 50 "f" words being uttered, along with other words and colorful phrases. Violence is also extreme with several people being killed (both on and off-screen), with occasionally bloody results. Considering all that occurs in the film, it should come as no surprise that bad attitudes also rate as an extreme.

Throughout the film we see several sexual encounters that include plenty of movement and related sounds, there's plenty of cleavage to go around, and sexually related dialogue also occurs in various scenes.

Beyond some moments that may be suspenseful to some viewers, some smoking and drinking also occur (with more of the latter). Due to the material that's present and since many teens may be drawn to this picture, we suggest that you take a closer look at the content should you be concerned about its appropriateness for anyone in your home.

  • Jake is reportedly an alcoholic and he shows up to a meeting still hung over from the night before.
  • We see that Sandra and Ben have had martinis.
  • People have drinks at a reception, including Peggy who has a glass of wine and appears a bit inebriated. Back at her place, she and Ben have drinks.
  • We see Jake sitting on a balcony railing drinking liquor straight from the bottle.
  • When Jake mentions that he's an alcoholic, Rita says, "Welcome to the club" after having found a martini in his fridge.
  • Jake has a drink.
  • Sandra pours martinis for herself and Jake.
  • We briefly see a dead body in a shallow fountain.
  • We see a toe tag on a cadaver and then hear a forensics guy working on the body with an electric rotary saw that, although we don't see the actual cutting, may be unsettling to some viewers. We do see blood splatter all over Rollins, however, from that cutting.
  • We see another dead body (but it's not gory, just dead), although a discovered syringe looks bloody (or dirty).
  • A body bag is opened and we see a badly burned/charred hand.
  • A man who's been shot is quite bloody, and we see blood smear on a window as he slides down it as well as the final, fatal bullet hole wound in his head.
  • Obviously, all of the characters (which means most everyone in the movie) involved in murder, plotting or hiring someone to murder, affairs, blackmail, etc... have extreme cases of both.
  • Some viewers may take offense to sexual scenes and/or related dialogue taking place inside a church.
  • Jake shows up late (and hung over) for a meeting at work and then has a bad attitude while there.
  • Rita somewhat comically belittles Rollins' religious beliefs.
  • Two of the characters want to hire an outside person to kill another person (who works at a car "chop shop") and then blame it on an unseen serial killer (who also has bad attitudes). That "hired gun" then kills a person for practice (we only see the body).
  • We see that two cops have broken into a house to illegally obtain evidence.
  • There's an imagined scene where a character jumps from a balcony railing.
  • We then see two characters push a third over that railing and then see that person dangling from it as they try to make them fall. They eventually succeed and that person falls many stories to their death.
  • We see a toe tag on a cadaver and then hear a forensics guy working on the body with an electric rotary saw that, although we don't see the actual cutting, may be unsettling to some viewers. We do see blood splatter all over Rollins, however, from that cutting.
  • A car chases a motorcycle (and its two riders) down a mountainous road, eventually causing the bike and its riders to tumble down a cliff (we see this) and catch on fire/explode (we see the light from the fire on the car driver's face) with the riders ending up dead.
  • Recognizing a killer coming out of an elevator, a character races back up the stairs to stop them. We then see the man roughing up a woman and the first character rushes in and holds their gun on that man. He then grabs a gun, the victim knocks his arm aside, and the third person repeatedly shoots the assailant with a final shot straight into his forehead.
  • We see a person run up to another person and stab a syringe (filled with poison) into their neck, but this turns out to be a fantasy.
  • Handgun: Fired in an old movie playing on TV.
  • Shotgun: Held by a guard at a hitman's place of work.
  • Handgun: Used by a person to threaten and blackmail another.
  • Handgun: Used by a character to repeatedly shoot and kill another character.
  • Poison-filled syringes: Used by a serial killer to kill his victims (not seen in use, except in an imagined scene).
  • Phrases: "Bone," "Sucking" "Horny," "Hard on," and "Sucking him off" (sexual), "Shut the f*ck up," "You f*cking mook," "Tough sh*t," "Pencil d*ck," "Bitch," "Ass wad," "Bastard," "Balls" (testicles), "Idiot," "Pissed," "Pissing," "Scum bag," "Broad" (woman), "Cut the crap," "What the hell" and "Shut up."
  • Although the odds are probably rather slim, some may get the idea to hire someone to kill someone they don't like (or want the insurance money from).
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful & dramatic music plays in several scenes.
  • None, although a rap song with unintelligible lyrics is present (that may or may not contain objectionable material).
  • At least 49 "f" words (6 used sexually, 1 used with "mother"), 14 "s" words, 4 slang terms for male genitals ("pr*ck" and "d*ck"), 11 hells, 3 asses (2 used with "hole"), 3 damns, 1 S.O.B., 1 crap, and 10 uses of "G-damn," 4 of "Jesus," 2 each of "Oh God" and "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ," "Christ," "God" and "Oh Lordy" as exclamations.
  • We hear Sandra on the phone with someone having "phone sex." Among the things she says is "I'm naked, and I'm so bad. Perhaps you want to spank me..."
  • Sandra and Ben make out in a church and we see her underwear fall down around her feet. We then see him lick her knee and start going up her leg (but the camera then cuts away from that shot). We briefly see her unbuckling his pants and then see her on top of him having sex with movement and sounds (and her pleasured facial expression), but no nudity.
  • At a damage control meeting concerning a male Senator caught in a compromising position, Jake jokingly says, "You think his position was bad? How'd you like to be the hooker that was sucking him off?" We then learn that this hooker was actually a guy. When Ben states that they'll distract the public causing them not to know which ball to keep their eye on, Jake chimes in, "Just like the Senator."
  • Sandra finds S&M related handcuffs and a leather hood in one of her client's homes.
  • We hear sexual sounds and then see Sandra's leg pop up and then her on top of Ben having sex with movement (but some furniture mostly blocks our view) in one of her client's homes. Afterwards, we see her lying on a sofa in her garters and a teddy that shows cleavage and see that he's handcuffed to a chair. She tells him that she's living out deep-seated sexual fantasies and says, "And you are f*cking your brother's wife." She then runs an ice cube inside his open shirt on his bare chest. When the clients come home, the two scramble to get dressed and as she crawls across the floor, we see a tremendous amount of cleavage (nearly all of her bare breasts).
  • At a reception, Sandra walks up to Ben and tells him that she's not wearing any underwear (and shows a lot of cleavage), but he tells her "not here."
  • Ben puts his hand on Peggy's thigh and then runs it up the inside of her thigh. They passionately kiss, she climbs up on top of him, they partially undo the other's clothing, and then end up on the floor with him between her legs (where we see the side of her bare butt as her dress is hiked up) and they do some kissing and heavy breathing. She finally stops him, however, stating that she needs a little more time. As they then watch TV, he runs his hand down inside her clothes and feels her breast, but she then removes his hand.
  • Ben finds Sandra lying in the backseat of his car (showing cleavage) where she then spreads her fishnet-covered legs (showing her underwear) as a suggestive invitation for him (telling him that all it takes "is one push").
  • When Ben tells Jake that he needs to do down on both knees for Sandra, Jake says that someone obviously already did that.
  • While collecting money in church, Sandra tells Ben (about Peggy), "You'll never wake up to find her sucking you." She then adds, "Maybe it's time a tell your little brother who I've been f*cking."
  • Ben gets a call from Jake who says, "It's the brother whose wife you're f*cking." When Ben asks about Sandra's whereabouts, Jake says, "What, are you horny?" and then adds, "After I'm dead, you can bone her day and night."
  • We see an ad on the street that shows a nude woman lying on her back (although it doesn't show any explicit nudity) with the caption, "Just go for it."
  • A character mentions that another is resilient and might come marching in "with a hard on."
  • Rita tells Peggy, "So you're f*cking this guy and nobody knows it?"
  • Although a priest seriously eulogizes a dead man, the movie makes it into some double entendres as the priest says that many people were "touched" by the dead character and that God has silenced his "organ" (his heart, but the joke is about another part of his body).
  • Rita asks Rollins if he's gay, prompting him to ask why she asked that, but she never gives a reason.
  • We see various views of Sandra and Jake having sex (some in a mirror, others of their individual, pleasured reactions -- with plenty of movement and sounds but no nudity) with her on top and taking pictures of them. During it, we hear her say, "F*ck me like a Republican."
  • A hitman asks a character, "You're f*cking her, aren't you?"
  • As Sandra prepares Jake's pants for the laundry, a wrapped condom falls to the floor.
  • As Peggy hops around in what looks like a maid's outfit, we see glimpses of part of her bare butt. We then see a man's underwear fall to his feet as we see just their legs and feet. We then see a brief glimpse of what looks like her bare breast as well as hear some slight sexual sounds.
  • As we see the springs underneath a bed rhythmically moving to Peggy's panting, we assume that people are having sex, but then see that Peggy is exercising (we see her in her bra) and that Jake is thumping his leg on the bed.
  • We see Sandra in her bra (and lots of cleavage).
  • Rita mentions to Sandra that she did all the work, although "most of it was on your back" (referring to sex).
  • Jake smokes a few times, Ben smokes once and a person in a bank smokes.
  • We see Jake upset upon learning that his wife is having an affair (although his emotions aren't true).
  • All of the behavior that occurs in this black comedy and that the characters who "win" in the end get away with all of it.
  • Killing someone for their insurance money and/or hiring a hitman to do the job.
  • Ben throws his keys at Sandra.
  • Having learned that his wife is having an affair, Jake overturns a table and then knocks over a coat rack and other items at work.
  • We see two characters push a third over a balcony railing and then see that person dangling from it as the two try to make them fall. They eventually succeed and that person falls many stories to their death (where we see the body hit the bottom of a shallow fountain -- but from the balcony's view).
  • Peggy slaps Jake.
  • We see that a serial killer has killed another person (we only see the discovered body), and then later see that a hired killer has slain another person for practice (we see the body).
  • A hired killer walks over to a man bound and hanging from the ceiling and proceeds to hit him several times with a club.
  • A car chases a motorcycle (and its two riders) down a mountainous road, eventually causing the bike and its riders to tumble down a cliff (we see this) and catch on fire/explode (we see the light from the fire on the car driver's face) with the riders ending up dead.
  • A character holds a gun on another character and then has them tied up.
  • We see a man roughing up a woman. Another character then rushes in and holds their gun on that man. He then grabs a gun, the victim knocks his arm aside, and the third person repeatedly shoots the assailant with a final shot straight into his forehead.
  • We see a person run up to another person and stab a syringe (filled with poison) into their neck/back, but this turns out to be a fantasy.

  • Reviewed April 12, 1999 / Posted April 16, 1999

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