Friday, February 18, 2011

Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl

Marsha Mason received her second Best Actress nomination for playing Paula, a struggling single mom in Herbert Ross' romantic comedy, The Goodbye Girl. I'm quite certain that Marsha got the third most votes in 1977. She had previously won the Golden Globe in a tie with Diane Keaton and she starred in a movie, which was quite popular, I think. She might even have been second if they had been that crazy about the movie, which is not very probable. She did not win and she went on to receive two other unsuccessful nominations.

The Goodbye Girl is an OK, very entertaining movie. I really enjoyed it though a second viewing was a bit boring. The charm that was so grabbing for the first time was not that strong now. Nevertheless, I still had quite a good fun with it and I would gladly re-watch it if I had to. Neil Simon is one of the greatest comedy writers and I love his style. Although Out of Towners is unbeatable, this was is quite excellently written. An Oscar over Annie Hall would have been a bit absurd, though. Richard Dreyfuss' Best Actor win still baffles me. I just don't get it how they could choose him over two later iconic performances and two veterans. Quinn Cummings is quite cute and a nomination was deserved, I think.

I have basically experienced three types of attitudes towards Marsha Mason's career: some just love her and some say she's overrated and she was only nominated so often because her then-hubby wrote great roles for her. And there's a third one (which I also feel). According to that, Marsha Mason is indeed a very good actress, but there have been many better ones. And I experienced that from her movies: although Cinderella Liberty was a bit underwhelming and boring when I watched it, her performance somehow stuck with me. I really can't get it out of my head. However, the role of Paula (and Marsha's performance here) is so different from what she showed in Cinderella Liberty.

I felt that Mason was so much more confident this time around. Cinderella Liberty was like moving into a new house. Everything is new and one has to experiment with the possibilities. In The Goodbye Girl Marsha felt much more comfortable and easy. It might have been that she worked easier with a role that was written by her ex-husband. It also might have been that the material itself was rather lightweight and easy to handle. However, I don't think that either of them are true. Marsha simply gave a very good performance as Paula. That's it.

What really helps Marsha is the character, who's instantly likeable and sympathetic. I mean anyone who doesn't feel sorry for this poor woman has a heart made of ice-cold stone. It's a mainly comic role, but Marsha injects a bit of drama into it and yet it asn't anything depressing. Although Paula is not really an optimist, the movie itself is and (also thanks to Marsha) we just feel good because of that. Whenever we see this adorably ordinary character, we can say "that could be me". Marshe dealt with the hardest scenes quite well, the ones that are difficult to play because they are ordinary. For example, it's such a heartbreaking scene when Paula's purse is stolen with all her remaining money in it and then she runs after the thieves. When she falls, it's so heartwrenching.

Moreover, Marsha's chemistry with Richard Dreyfuss is just excellent. They work excellently together or to put it more accurately Marsha works well with Dreyfuss. Whenever Dreyfuss is too much and too annoying, there's Marsha who's the perfect balance and she saves the scenes as a result. Their scene on the roof is so lovely and romantic and deeply human. I might be sentimental but I really fell for it. These scenes are the best ones and they are so utterly loveable. Although sometimes I was quite bored, whenever it was close to ruining the whole thing, Marsha gained some strength again, so I had no serious problems with this performance.

So, to sum up, Marsha Mason may be neither amazing nor groundbreaking in The Goodbye Girl. She may not have huge dramatic moments or huge breakdown or even hysterical comedy, she gives one hell of a performance, which is entertaining, moving, lovely and so damn natural. As I said, it may not be the best one ever, but it's still great.

What do you think? It's time for the final predictions! :-)

And tomorrow... The moment we have all been waiting for... THE 100th REVIEW! Sweet Diane goes 100th. And the day after tomorrow... The Final Conclusion.


Fritz said...

I really liked her but I think Dreyfuss stole the show (but I need to re-watch it. The last time I concentrated on Mason, maybe when I concentrate on him, my opinion will change...)

Louis Morgan said...

I thought she was great, and mostly agree with what you say.

I think why Dreyfuss won is understandable. Equus was trash which I am sure hurt Burton's chances. Allen had three chances to win, so I doubt they felt that needed to reward him for actor as well. Mastroianni performance was foreign language, and the film only received one other nomination. Travolta was young and his nomination was Fever's only nomination. Dreyfuss's film was well liked in terms of nominations, and his win was also a chance to reward the film.

joe burns said...

I like her a lot too, just not as much here...

I felt Dreyfuss was good actually though the only other one I've seen is Allen.

Alex in Movieland said...

well, I have done 1977 before and Marsha was my choice, but it was a very sentimental one, because I really loved the film.

Ann Hedonia said...

Marsha Mason acts in the style of Doris Day in this movie. Interestingly, they share the same birthday. Coincidence? I think not.