If Julie Andrews made a soft-core porn for Showtime, Goodbye Lover (Regency Enterprises) is the kind of movie it would be. The sexy thriller centers on Sandra Dunmore (Patricia Arquette, The Hi-Lo Country), a wealthy real estate agent with a passion for The Sound of Music that almost matches her passion for sex.
At the beginning of the film, the highly sensual Sandra is trapped in the middle of a love triangle. She is sleeping with her brother-in-law Ben Dunmore (Don Johnson, Tin Cup). Her husband, Jake (Dermot Mulroney, My Best Friend’s Wedding), is an alcoholic whose penchant for crass one-liners is about to get him fired. And there’s Peg Bailey (Mary-Louise Parker, Fried Green Tomatoes). While working at Ben’s public relations firm, she meets Ben and immediately falls in love with him.
From this chaotic love mess a bizarre sequence of double-crosses andback-stabbings follows. All four characters murder, attempt to murder and deceive each other in the hope of getting the insurance money that multiplies as the characters, one by one, are killed. You are left unsure about who is siding with whom.
Sandra is a calm, confident woman who gets what she wants from men. Throughout the movie, director Roland Joffe draws parallels between Sandra and her favorite fictional character, Maria from The Sound Of Music. Songs from the show’s soundtrack, which play in Sandra’s car as she returns from a sexual escapade with Ben in a church, reveal that Sandra is like Maria – “she’s an angel, she’s the devil, she’s the best.” Arquette perfectly plays the role of the upstanding, church-going citizen with a devious, mischievous side.
How could anyone not love a movie in which Johnson is given his choice of ladies? His character, Ben, is having a passionate and often kinky affair with his brother’s wife. In the beginning of the film, a distraught Ben asks Sandra, “What are we doing?” She replies dryly “I am living out my deep-seeded sexual fantasies, you are f—–g your brother’s wife.”
After this conversation, Ben begins dating the seemingly sweet and naive Peg, searching for something “real” in his life. In one of the most awkward and humorous sex scenes possibly ever to grace the big screen; Ben and Peg clumsily fumble around on the couch – a scene that will strike a chord with anyone who ever lived in Thurston.
The comedic interaction between detectives Pompano (Ellen DeGeneres, “Ellen”) and Rollins (Ray McKinnon) flavors Goodbye Lover with humor. The two partners, who are polar opposites, are brought on the case after the first murder. DeGeneres plays the seasoned veteran, a die-hard cynic who doesn’t have anything nice to say about anyone. Her one-liners and continuous cracks about her partner are refreshingly funny.
McKinnon steals the show with his portrayal of Detective Rollins, a Mormon from Salt Lake City who believes the stories Sandra, Jake, Ben and Peg tell him. Constantly describing the evils in society and condemning the use of alcohol, Rollins is the perfect complement to Pompano. He constantly elicits curt responses from DeGeneres’ character, “Face it: People are bad, the world sucks, now just get on with your life.” The pair’s comedic efforts lighten the plot and save the movie from going straight to home video.
The only thing separating this movie from great comedic thrillers is its many cheesy parts. The film has as many bad one-liners as witty ones. Some situations seem contrived, if not impossible, and a few of the minor characters are clich?, such as the sketchy murderer who lives in the junkyard and plays video games.
The movie holds together relatively well, despite some drastic changes in the plot. Joffe uses some interesting directorial tricks, such as showing an event and later revealing that it was the thoughts of a character. The movie succeeds in drawing together two different film elements – sex and comedy.