Nowhere man

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

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

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