Goodbye Lover (1998) Poster


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"Image is everything"
Inspector Lohmann13 February 2002
"Goodbye Lover" is a quite good dark comedy about -- as Jake Dunmore says quoting his brother Ben -- "Image is everything." Everything in this movie is about image, and yet nothing is at it appears. And in this respect the very context of the movie sustains the content exceedingly well: it's a beautifully shot movie -- too pretty, in fact. So pretty it's easy to miss the fetidness just beneath the surface.

Almost every shot is too shiny, too glossy, too seamless, too meticulously composed. Many scenes are suffused with those ubiquitous cinematic blues and oranges contemporary DPs and directors like so much, but raised to such a degree that it almost enters the realm of the fanciful. Many other scenes are done in hi-tech blacks, whites, and grays. Everything is window dressing -- reality is nothing more than appearance, beautifully symbolized by mirrors everywhere. Lots of mirrors, shiny surfaces, glass & windows, all reflecting everyone to everyone else, a world of appearances without substance, without soul. And when people aren't being reflected in mirrors they're being framed behind glass, a diorama for display. The world is just one big department store window.

Yet just as a structurally crumbling, termite-ridden house can be painted to look pristine and beautiful, so does this shiny veneer hide the most vicious, rapacious, cynical behavior. Indeed, the world in which this takes place may look beautiful, but it is very very empty and ugly. And as such this is a kind of morality tale that shows the dangers to a society that lives strictly for appearance.

There are few movies I can think of which so excellently explore this tense boundary between the shiny packaging, and the rancid stuff it hides. As Ben Dunmore says, "People worry that it's a dangerous and sh*tty world. And it is our job to make it look safe and clean." Thus our hero works at a PR firm, packaging a morally bankrupt politician as a wholesome, devout family man; the president of the PR firm pretends to be a holy man -- a rather inherent contradiction; our two principals work in a church that obviously serves Mammon over anything else: religion is just another accoutrement, something to accessorize the soul; and then there's the wedding chapel in Las Vegas, where an unctuous smile sells ersatz sincerity. [Sorry.] Etc. (In fact, it's surprising how many such examples of this there are in the movie -- the writers were very inventive and consistent in coming up with such a profusion of image vs substance motifs.)

The only person in this world of appearances who doesn't belong, Detective Rollins, is a "F*cking Mook" -- as his partner, Sergeant Rita Pompano (Ellen Degeneres), calls him. For him, appearance *is* reality. His sincerity is regarded with mocking disbelief by everybody: he obviously doesn't understand the rules of the game that everyone else is playing. Even we, the audience, take sides against him -- that's how subtly subversive and well presented -- even seductive -- this world is.

And speaking of Ellen Degeneres, she is great in this movie. Others complain that she isn't funny or witty, merely insulting. But in one of those delightful twists where the line between fiction and reality dissolves, this is her payback for the flack she took from the forces of christian oppression after she came out of the closet. Ellen obviously relishes this role -- she mercilessly mocks her Mormon partner, gets to be a "guy" (and, for an attractive woman, she is laudably unattractive in this role), and, at the end of the movie, looks ridiculous when she dresses in "drag".

This may also be Don Johnson's best movie. For once he gets to play the kind of character he seems uniquely equipped to play: a high-end used car salesman, all style, all flash, sexy in his way, but empty and sleazy. It's very fitting that when he says he's "trying to get something real in his life", he unknowingly gets quite the opposite. And, since he wants to leave the game, he no longer belongs in this world -- and is appropriately removed from the game.

Sometimes the symbolism is a bit heavy-handed ("Go For It" billboard), as is the writing ("You need to go down on your knees for her." "Well, someone obviously did."). But it's all in good spirits, and I'm willing to accept its blemishes (as it were) 'cause it succeeds admirably in most other respects. And the acting in general is uniformly solid -- in fact, it's very well cast, even the curiously unfatale femme fatale Patricia Arquette.

The movie ends on a wonderfully humorous note to the tune of "Climb Every Mountain" as image thoroughly triumphs over substance, much as it does in real life -- which may be the reason this movie doesn't sit well with many people.

The filmmakers obviously had fun making this movie, and it shows. All in all, it's a very well-made, fun movie -- if you scratch its surface. [8/10]
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Very pleasing neo-noir with good cast and lots of humor
Kar-225 April 2000
I wrote this comment mainly because there are so many negative reviews posted here and fewer positive ones and I think this film definitely deserves better. I liked it very much, have seen it twice, once on the big screen and just now on DVD. It was not the least bit boring the second time even though the film relies heavily on its plot twists and the suspense they produce. I think many people just don't come to terms with cross-overs, they want either a suspense film that takes itself dead serious or a clear cut comedy. I liked the humor in the film and its outrageous characters well played by a perfectly assembled cast. Patricia Arquette is just great, a pleasure to watch! She deserves the price for the funniest sociopath femme fatale ever seen on the silver screen. Vincent Gallo in his tiny role as contract killer is the icing on the cake! The film is superbly shot and directed and features a brilliant soundtrack. I voted it a 9.
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Great film - if you set your expectations correctly
strat-83 February 2002
You can't please everyone. If you have a story that's easy to follow people will say its boring and predictable. If you have a richly complex story, people will say its labyrinthine and confusing. The trick is to have something in the middle, and that is what Goodbye Lover gives us.

The central thread is simple. The complications happen on the periphery. You can't watch this movie with one eye closed. You have to pay attention! How can you have a mystery when you already know whodonnit? Ah, that is the question. Are you up to the challenge?

This is a comedy. Comedies have license to be wacky and over-the-top. Patricia Arquette and Ellen DeGeneres give standout performances. I love this movie. Its very entertaining, very clever, very funny, fast paced, never boring. Isn't that what a comedy should be?
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A sexy, noirish thriller that keeps you guessing
dan-30311 June 1999
The opening scene of Goodbye Lover is perhaps the most subtle part of the whole film: Patricia Arquette as Sandra, an LA realtor, is shown driving down a busy LA freeway while listening intently to a self-motivational tape. With this as evidence, we just _know_ this chick's nuts. And as the movie goes on, our suspicions are proved correct: we watch as Sandra schemes to kill her husband, Jake (Dermot Mulroney), along with her lover, who also happens to be Jake's brother, Ben (Don Johnson, in a particularly solid performance). But after Sandra's plan "succeeds", we learn that things aren't nearly as simple as they seem.

Rather, as we meet more and more characters, we find that each one is secretly screwing the other (In both senses of the word). A "good" girl played by Mary-Louise Parker and a cynical LA cop played by Ellen DeGeneres become embroiled in Sandra's web of deceit, and as each person succumbs to his/her avarice, the script gets funnier and funnier. In the end, it's a close tie between Arquette and Ellen for the most memorable moments in the film, but both characters have certain qualities that make them enjoyable to watch. Arquette's Sandra is a seductive and especially shrewd femme fatale who hums choruses from the Sound of Music while prancing about other people's homes (Arquette is the perfect Real Estate Agent From Hell). Meanwhile, DeGeneres' Rita Pompano is hilariously aloof to the lives of the people around her, casually dropping off-hand (And almost always crude and sarcastic) comments that demonstrate just how wise she is to Sandra's lusty motivations.

Sorry to say, I can't divulge too much of the film without spoiling it, but Goodbye Lover is something like a cross between The Last Seduction and Wild Things. However, unlike the ridiculous series of plot twists that just about ruined Wild Things, Goodbye Lover manages to avoid being too obvious in order to fulfill one's desire for a satisfying conclusion. Overall, I'd have to rate this sexy, noirish thriller with a well-deserved "A".
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I really enjoyed this movie
rissa6 July 2000
I'd never heard of this movie and came across it as it was starting on cable last night. I only intended to watch a few minutes of it and then go to sleep but I ended up watching the whole thing. I was particularly intrigued with Ellen Degeneres' character, a hard-boiled, seen-it-all detective with a great sense of timing and humor. I was also very impressed with the direction and editing, the movie moves at a fast, bright clip, it's quick and sexy and funny. And I liked Patricia Arquette as the conspiring wife, she plays her role with deft accuracy. Unlike the first reviewer of this movie who found the plot twists predictable, neither my husband nor I saw them coming. I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable movie, I'm only sorry we missed seeing it on the big screen.
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Quirky, twisty Film Noir, well worth watching.
sionlew12 March 2005
If you've got nothing better to do one night and manage to catch this little gem on late night TV, then it's worth an hour and a half of your time.

A stylishly shot quirky film noir with a plot that twists and turns like a twisty-turny thing. With a sizzling performance by the weird femme fatale Patricia Arquette, and great dialogue from Ellen de Generes as the laconic cop, it's a very entertaining thriller.

Be warned if you are a cynic, Citizen Kane it ain't, but if you're a fan of the genre and into the Likes of Last Seduction, Bound, Palmetto etc., this underrated piece of work may just tickle your fancy.
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Exhausting twists and wrong turns...
moonspinner5523 October 2005
Shady married couple conspire to knock-off the husband's rich brother, but when the wife finds out her husband is in cahoots with the brother's spouse, she does some conspiring of her own. Over-plotted mystery-comedy-drama sat a long while on the shelf. Highly mediocre picture does have a great character for Patricia Arquette to play, but it still isn't funny enough nor convincing enough to make much of an impression. Though directed by the esteemed Roland Jaffe, this is just a cartoonish doodle that only served to give several under-used actors (Don Johnson, Ellen DeGeneres, Dermot Mulroney, Mary Louise Parker) a chance to be "colorful". End result is exhausting and tedious. ** from ****
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Good ole' Trashy FUN!
What an under-rated gem of a film! Why Warner brothers did not push to promote this in 1999 is a mystery to me. Sure, it is a mix of genres. that is what makes a good and interesting film. The cast is just perfect. Patricia Arquette clearly relishes in this role, as the sultry, devious, silly, and obsessive Sandra Dunmore. Here blunt bob haircut says it all. Don't mess with her. As always, her performance makes most of the film, and easily holds the audience attention through each twist and turn. Ellen Degeras is a bit over the top in her role as Rita Pompeno, the over eating and negative detective, however is still funny. If you want to sit back and have fun, mix up a cocktail and watch this film with friends. You will all be smiling.
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Brilliant mix of noir and comedy!
kpyatt27 January 2000
"Goodbye Lover" is the remedy for a person in need of sizzling, film noir mystery or laugh-out-loud comedy. Patricia Arquette and Ellen DeGeneres carry the film and both seem right at place as their characters. Arquette plays Sandra Dunmore, Don Johnson is Ben, her husband's brother. Dermot Mulroney is Jake Dunmore, Sandra's husband. A plan is being woven and you don't always know by who, as insurance money is what everyone wants. I won't give anything away, even though twists aren't the only thing this film has going for it. Like I said, I spent half the time laughing hysterically. Ellen DeGeneres is Rita Pompano, a lazy detective who hates the human race and is only in the force because "Every once in a while I get to shoot somebody." The film's script is smooth and well written, full of the right dose of thrills and laughs. Despite what many may say about this film, it is the perfect example of what film noir is all about. Not just mystery, not just comedy, but a little bit of both. A fantastic film.
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Without hyperbole, one of the worst movies I've ever seen.
Eight Two30 June 2000
The death of "Goodbye Lover" obviously came in its editing. Because watching it, you do see that hidden within the numerous layers of ridiculous bile, there was at some point, an actually coherent plot. Not to fault editor Bill Steinkamp too terribly, because while the story may be choppy and often unexplained and lacking a central arc due to the cuts made, one gets the overwhelming impression that, with or without editing, this film *stinks*.

It doesn't know whether it wants to be funny, tense, smarmy, sexy, or devious. It is literally as if the writers drew slips of paper titled "things we like about movies" from a hat and put it into the script. Director Roland Joffé (who did The Killing Fields - what happened?!) does his best, I guess, but that is not enough. The cast tries hard enough that it's only fair to warrant that it isn't their fault. But, there's nothing that could have saved this movie short of never making it.
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stupid yet entertaining
Mickey Knox20 December 2000
Goodbye Lover is a thriller-comedy that keeps you watching although it's obvious the movie doesn't take itself too serious. Patricia Arquette is married to Dermot Mulroney and she has a lover, Don Johnson. She convinces John to kill her husband, but there's one problem: her husband is his brother.

The film is very predictable, with only 2-3 exceptions. All the murders come along absoultely normal and if you add a totally annoying sick-of-life cop, Ellen de Generes, and her help, a incredibly stupid guy from Salt Lake, you get as a result a not-so-great film. One thing saved the whole movie: the ending. Pretty original and not expected.

A good watch, if you're in the mood for a simple thriller. Good performances from the actors. Vote: 5 out of 10.
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Love the actors in this movie
cspfp221 September 2006
But I HATED the movie. First, Ellen (sorry I love her) was terrible. She just is not that person and can't pull it off. Her having a trashy mouth and being a hard as nails cop just doesn't work at all.

After that everything else pales.

If you like Mary Louise Parker, watch Weeds and Fried Green Tomatoes and Boys on the Side, and Saved and The Client, and Angels in America, but do not watch this movie please.

Patricia Arquette - love her and actually I did love her performance in this movie, but the rest of the movie was just so awful it's a large price to pay to see her performance.
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Passable but deeply flawed
bob the moo16 July 2002
Things are not well in the Dunmore family. Sandra is an improvement tape freak who's marriage is rocky as her husband Jake hits the bottom of every bottle in the bar. This affects his work (but luckily his brother owns the company. However Ben is having sex with Sandra. This drives Jake to the point of suicide, however when Ben comes to stop him Ben becomes the victim of a plot that sees numerous twists.

I didn't have a clue what this was about when I watched it – and that helped. The start is OK and sets it up as a quirky film, with Arquette listening to self-improvement tapes and `The Sound of Music'. However it then gets dark with the murder itself but then veers between comedy and noir right till the end where we get a `to the camera' final line. The plot itself is OK – not great but passable. However it's not helped by the film not really knowing what it is – a comedy or a noir. Due to this it fails to do well in either but is watchable as both.

The thriller/noir bits don't work because they are damaged by the comedy and the slightly farfetched nature of the constant twists. The comedy doesn't work because it's either too quirky or just plain tired - witness Ellen DeGeneres deliver one dull putdown after another. However it is still enjoyable – merely because it's glossy and moves fast.

Arquette is sexy at some points but annoying at others – she is OK but I wouldn't pick her as my choice for femme fatale. Mulroney is OK but unmemorable. Parker again is good but I can't remember much about her character – she had little to do. The best bits come from the cameo of Gallo and a good early role for Don Johnson. DeGeneres is poor because she's lumbered with a poor role and no jokes to work with,

Overall I wasn't bored and didn't hate it. However it is a mix of styles and in no way is it a neo-noir of any description. However from the director of `The Big Easy' and a good cast of good actors I really expected more.
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funny neonoir
loupgarou-22 February 2001
Once again I have to say I don't see where all the negativity is coming from. This is a very funny movie. I am not a DeGenerus fan, but I thought she was hilarious here. Patricia Arquette is one of my favorites and I thought she was great! Sexy and smart and innocent in a way notwithstanding all her scheming. The three main male roles are played well. I have a job where we watch a lot movies and I have shared this with 10 or 12 others, and each of them has loved this film. Give it a chance if you like laidback, funny neonoir.
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One of few positive comments on this film
Ernest Hamstra16 January 2001
In my opinion, this movie is highly underrated by most reviewers on the IMDB. Yes, I like this movie and here's why.

This movie does not pretend to be anything more than it is. It has great characters, a great cast and some funny plotlines. The story however is not that great, but the director saves the film.

If you like Don Johnson's "The Hot Spot" (1990) you will certainly like this one, even if it's not that good. 7/10
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good cast, weak script
hbs14 August 2000
This had the chance to be a very good movie. It's quirky and dark, but the script needed to be cleaned up. There are too many coincidences and loose ends, and some important plot points are not adequately explained.

In a consitently good cast, DeGeneres is a stand-out. The role is perfect for her, and she handles it very well. The doofus partner thing is a little much, but it's fun watching her dump on him -- my guess is that they expanded his role a little to give her a chance to be mean even more often. I can't really recommend this movie, but if you like noir and DeGeneres, you might want to take a chance.
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Good black comedy
joe-15220 December 1999
I read all those negative comments. I rented this movie yesterday because first I couldn't decide which film I want to see. But finally I was pleasently surprised by this good comedy and by the acting of Don Johnson and mainly Ellen DeGeneres. Her detective Rita Pompano is very funny and I love her cynicism.

This is the main reason why I vote 7 to this movie.
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Goodbye, chance at a good movie
Verbal-1717 April 1999
I'm usually very forgiving of movies (I'm a loyal defender of Speed 2 and The Postman), but I simply can't condone this awful, boring, and unpleasant movie. Every murder that happens is to utterly predictable that you just sit there in your seat begging for something interesting or original to happen, but it never does. Don Johnson's character is the only interesting one in the entire movie, but he's not in it for long, and things just go downhill from there. Not that I have anything against this kind of movie- one of my favorite movies last year was Wild Things, but that movie was smart, funny and interesting, and had fun characters. This loser of a movie has none of those things; the jokes are totally unfunny, and the plot developments are not the least bit interesting. Patricia Arquette is not the least bit convincing (or all that attractive, really) as a femme fatale wannabe, and Ellen DeGeneres, a great actress who could have made this character smart and funny, instead makes a character who is boring, annoying, and rather depressing to watch. Take, for example, the way she makes fun of her Mormon partner- there is no cleverness in her jokes, only rudeness, and so they all fall flat. The main reason that I was interested in this movie was because I kept hearing about all the great plot twists. Beware: there aren't really all that many, and none of them are the least bit believable. If you want a good neo-noir with fun plot twists, go rent Wild Things or The Usual Suspects, but leave this loser alone- it's not worth the film it's printed on.
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Climb Every Mountain!
Syl3 March 2015
I caught this movie last night on television. It is quite entertaining actually. Ellen DeGeneres plays a Los Angeles homicide detective who arrive after Ben's tragic death. Don Johnson is good at playing Ben. Dermot Mulroney plays his younger brother Jake. Ben is having an affair with his sister in law, Sondra (played by new Oscar winner Patricia Arquette). The cops investigate the accident closely. There is a huge insurance payout. My only problem with the film is the ending where justice isn't done at all. There are enough twists to keep you watching, Mary Louise Parker is also good in the role as Ben's widow. The film was made in Los Angeles, California. Ellen's role of cop adds humor but with ulterior motives. I just wished the ending was better and just.
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Cynical, unpredictable, improbable film noir.
gridoon21 January 2004
"Goodbye Lover" is certainly unpredictable, but there is a catch: once you've figured out the movie's cynical attitude (every single character is a slimy cheat looking for the big bucks), the twists all fall into the same pattern and lose their impact. Ellen DeGeneres is particularly grating; Don Johnson, Mary Louise Parker and even Ray McKinnon come off better, because they are pleasingly understated. (**1/2)
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Gradually Becoming a Cult Movie
gradyharp18 August 2006
GOODBYE LOVER slipped by a lot of viewers when it was released in 1998 and it is only now while on DVD that the quality of this little tongue-in-cheek film noir is gaining steady popularity. And that is basically due to a superb cast of fine actors who obviously are enjoying every minute of the project.

Sandra (Patricia Arquette) is a girl of somewhat lethal ambition, married to Jake (Dermot Mulroney) but having an affair with Jake's brother Ben (Don Johnson) who is also having an affair with his secretary Peggy (Mary-Louise Parker). The action quickens when the dark murder-for-insurance angle appears, but this also opens the door for the entrance of detective Pompano (Ellen DeGeneres) and her oingo-boingo partner Rollins (Ray McKinnon) who set about solving the tangled mysteries. The results create a very funny, dark humored movie that sparkles in the hands of all of the actors, especially with DeGeneres and Arquette.

A great movie? No, but one that is a lot of fun as directed with an astute grasp of the medium by Roland Joffé
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bibikatusic16 December 2018
Bad acting, bad script, bad producing and directing. You end up hating all the characters because they are so dumb and the script is so obvious the story could have been written by an 8 year old.

Guess I was forced to watch it and I kept shaking my head at how dumb this movie is!!!
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Do Not Judge By The First Half Hour, It Gets Better
fredgfinklemeyer15 December 2018
Thankfully, I didn't have to watch an entire Don Johnson the great lover movie as his sexual escapades became exceedingly boring. The movie gathers steam as it progresses. Ellen Degenerate was her typical wise guy self but OK to watch. Overall it was a decent movie. Bon Appetit
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Murder Most Foul
sol-27 December 2016
Two brothers and their lovers become embroiled in mounting murder plots with a lucrative inheritance on the horizon in this comedy thriller full of twists and turns. To say much more might ruin a fresh experience, but suffice it to say, the film is a surefire testament to the dangers of placing too much trust in another human being. The characters live in a very sad world where they can never really trust one another. On the same account though, they are all so greedy and self-absorbed that it is hard to truly care for them; this is one of those awkward films where it is difficult to find a character to root for. The only ostensibly honorable person is a born again Christian detective played by Roy McKinnon, but the way he weaves spirituality into every conversation actually renders him least likable. Ellen DeGeneres also gets on the nerves as McKinnon's wisecracking partner, but she does admittedly have her amusing moments. By all accounts, this is quite a divisive film with not everyone appreciating what director Roland Joffé has opted for by blending neo-noir thriller elements with lighthearted humour. As one would expect from a Joffé film though, it is a well crafted piece of cinema. John Ottman's music score varies effectively between being enchanting and atmospheric and Dante Spinotti's frequently angular cinematography and mobile camera-work ensures that the film is visually arresting. The twists and turns also happen with enough frequency that the film rarely bores even if it is occasionally hard to care for the despicable characters at hand.
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Music Tracks For The Movie
koonceonsax15 April 2011
I confess, I bought the movie because my best friend, Porfirio Mojica, performed the soundtrack at the point where Don Johnson is playing the keyboards in the organ loft. This particular scene (a love scene with Patricia Arquette) is pretty steamy, I admit. Saint Mathew Passion, I believe, is the piece they used. I recognize Pro's (our nickname for Porfirio) style because I grew up listening to him play. Unfortunately, he was not mentioned in the credits because he is not a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Porfirio still performs and teaches music at Mount San Antonio Community College (MTSACC) in Walnut, California. I watch the movie from time to time to hear him in the soundtrack, but I give the movie itself an average rating of 6 out of 10.
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