Goodbye to All That, indie romantic comedy, not rated, Jean Cocteau Cinema, 1.5 chiles In 2005, the beautiful indie sleeper Junebug, with a screenplay by Angus MacLachlan, introduced the world to recent Golden Globe- winner Amy Adams. Goodbye to All That, MacLachlan’s directorial debut, is less melancholic than Junebug, but it’s still no cookie-cutter romance or formulaic comedy. It’s the story of Otto Wall (Paul Schneider), a sweet but dweeby husband and father. He has some sort of business-casual white-collar job and a comfortable, if unexciting, marriage. He’s athletic but a little awkward — in the opening scene, he trips and falls right after crossing the finish line of a run. Otto suddenly finds himself divorced, living alone, and learning to navigate the world of the single forty-something guy who shares custody of his preteen daughter (Audrey P. Scott). The film has its charming, quirky, well-meaning moments, but it’s as clumsy and clueless as its protagonist.
Otto’s wife, Annie (Melanie Lynskey), claims that he “doesn’t pay attention,” but we never really witness his failures or lack of attention, so apparently MacLachlan expects us to take her word for it. Were people hiding things from him? In early scenes, his wife quickly stashes her laptop when he walks into the room, and his daughter shoves the book she’s reading under her bedcovers when he comes in to kiss her good night. Otto doesn’t know Annie has a therapist, but has she actually told him? Or was he just supposed to figure it out?
MacLachlan packs his cast with wonderful female actresses (Lynskey, Heather Graham, Anna Camp, and Amy Sedaris), but he doesn’t paint women in a flattering light. Rather than being sympathetic, Annie comes across as self-righteous, angry, and uncommunicative. She abruptly asks Otto to meet her at her (as-yet-unmentioned) therapist’s office one afternoon, and then she and her shrink (a comically infuriating Celia Weston) ambush him with the news that Annie wants a divorce. Maybe Otto is amiably oblivious, but it seems like the height of passive-aggression to speak to your therapist about your marital problems and decide you want a divorce without at least pointing out your grievances to your spouse first. She hasn’t bothered to talk to Otto about their problems, but he discovers later that she has been having a torrid affair all along.
Through OkCupid, Otto looks for a new relationship, but mostly ends up having a lot of mildly kinky, sometimes sad, occasionally funny hookups. With almost no effort, he meets several women — gorgeous, well-built, aggressive caricatures who only seem to want hot, commitmentfree sex. This seems to be more male wish fulfillment than an attempt to portray strong, independent-minded female characters.
As a director, MacLachlan doesn’t do much stylistically. He has Otto use Facebook to connect with former sweethearts and troll his ex-wife’s feed. Believable? Yes. Cinematic? Not very. MacLachlan may have been trying to keep his film realistic and relatable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Otto gets stuck in a pattern, gaining no insight and, like the film, lacking any forward momentum. MacLachlan does paint a lovely portrait of North Carolina, with its leafy winding roads, where golden autumn sunlight and colorful foliage give everything an idyllic glow. If only MacLachlan had a similar outlook on humanity.
— Laurel Gladden
Paul Schneider and Anna Camp