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GOODBYE PEOPLE, THE (director/writer: Herb Gardner; screenwriter: from the play by Mr. Gardner; cinematographer: John Lindley; editor: Rick Shaine; cast: Judd Hirsch (Arthur Korman), Martin Balsam (Max Silverman), Pamela Reed (Nancie Scot), Ron Silver (Eddie Bergson), Michael Tucker (Michael Silverman), Gene Saks (Marcus Soloway), James Trotman (Velasquez); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: David V. Picker; Embassy Pictures; 1983)
It was difficult sitting through this talky production without squirming from embarrassment at the mushy dialogue and shrill preaching.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Playwright Herb Gardner’s stage-struck comedy/drama is adapted from his Broadway play. It reeks of sentimentality and barks out a message for the “little guy” but has no bite in its trivial pronouncements. The film adaption of his former play A Thousand Clowns succeeded, in all probability, because he wasn’t the director and Jason Robards’ great performance got around all the similar rough edges that was present in this film. It was difficult sitting through this talky production without squirming from embarrassment at the mushy dialogue and shrill preaching.

Arthur Korman (Judd Hirsch) is a disgruntled 41-year-old stuck in a job he doesn’t enjoy–a designer of pixies for a Santa’s workshop display. He wanted to be a sculptor, but settled for steady work and a sure paycheck the last 18 years. For the last six mornings he has come to Coney Island to catch the February sunrise, but has fallen asleep before catching it (a cheap metaphor for sleeping through his adult life!). Max Silverman (Martin Balsam) is a 73-year-old who owned 23 years ago a beachfront refreshment emporium, Max’s Hawaiian Ecstasies, specializing in cocoanut drinks and hot dogs; he still owns the rundown property with his partner Marcus Soloway (Gene Saks). Even though Max just recovered from a heart attack he yearns to open up the business again in the now seedy Coney Island, whereas he’s advised by all his friends and former partner that it’s a hopeless venture. The two strangers talk on the beach, and soon Max’s daughter Shirley (Pamela Reed) appears. She has a nose job and a complete cosmetic makeover, a therapist who is a good listener, a new job as a TV commercial actress, and a new name–Nancie Scot. When Max leaves to call up his former suppliers and see if he can get a full partner for $20,000, he’s rebuffed. Meanwhile Nancie and the insecure Arthur converse and seem to understand each other even though their timing is off as far as responses. As she tries to get his courage up to quit and do something he likes, he wrestles from within to see if he has enough nerve to quit his job for a dream. Her ex-husband Eddie (Ron Silver), an owner of a used-car lot arrives, and unsuccessfully tries to talk her into resuming the marriage.

After much chatter about such things as Al Jolson, the glorious old days, the horrors of big-chain establishments versus the glories of running your own little business, and the need to do your own thing however crazy, Arthur gives up his life savings to become Max’s partner.

The problem was that all the characters were annoying stereotypes, the film seemed stuck in old-fashioned talk and virtues, and there was no comedy in this comedy. The mawkish dramatics seemed as chilly and depressing as Coney Island in the winter.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”