"The Killing Fields" and "The Mission" both placed director Roland Joffé as a major player on the directorial map. But with the commercial and critical failure of his last film, the ploddingly dull "The Scarlet Letter" starring Demi Moore, Joffé has gone out on a limb with the twist-filled comic noir "Goodbye, Lover" as his plea for forgiveness.
Set in a highly stylized Los Angeles, "Goodbye, Lover" finds kinky nymphet Sandra Dunmore (Patricia Arquette) schtupping ad-agency head and part-time church organist Ben Dunmore (Don Johnson) in the parish choir loft (with choir practice downstairs, no less), as well as in several of the plush Beverly Hills homes she has access to as a 90210 realtor. The only problem is, Sandra's husband is Ben's brother, Jake (Dermot Mulroney), an alcoholically impaired junior partner in his big brother's agency.
But when Ben transfers his interest to Peggy Blaine (Mary-Louise Parker), a somewhat mousy administrative assistant at the agency, Sandra 'fesses up to her hubby about her illicit affair. Soon Ben is murdered and a long road of twists and turns is traveled as the entire crew plot to gain control of Ben's sizeable cash holdings and life-insurance settlement.
While the story is convoluted enough as it is, Joffé's schizophrenic directorial style makes even more of a mess of things. "Goodbye, Lover" begins as an amateur rip-off of the Brian DePalma classics "Dressed to Kill" and "Body Double," but after the murder occurs the tone begins to change. Sgt. Rita Pompano (Ellen DeGeneres) is introduced as the frumpy police detective assigned to the case. And although DeGeneres finally brings some much-needed life and laughs into the film, Joffé tries to throw in some Tarantino-esque gory humor that falls way flat. The rest of the film takes a route similar to "Wild Things" without the campy sense of fun that made that film a suspenseful guilty pleasure.
With lines such as, "Never trust anyone over 10 who listens to 'The Sound of Music,'" DeGeneres throws her sarcastic attitude around to stir things up, but it's almost as if she showed up at a baseball game ready to hit a home run and none of the other team members knew how to play.
This lame exercise will certainly do nothing to bolster Joffé's credibility -- maybe "Goodbye, Hollywood" would have been a more fitting title?
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