Goodbye to All That

| July 17, 2015

The tagline for Goodbye to All That reads “A modern divorce story.” Whatever that means.

In this case it means a story about the awkward and eclectic sexual encounters of a newly-divorced father who was oblivious to the demise of his own marriage. Written and directed by Angus MacLachlan, the writer of the 2005 Junebug, the critically acclaimed Indie film that launched the career of Amy Adams, Goodbye to All That is a funny and sincere attempt at examining the gray areas of marriage and divorce today. Anchored by an authentic and balanced performance by Paul Schneider, along with a strong team of supporting ladies, the film is both amusing and heartfelt, but also feels weighed down by the themes of complexity in marriage, divorce, dating and fatherhood.

For Otto Wall, his wife’s decision to end their marriage is a shock and a mystery. Otto’s confusion carries over as he stumbles through the new realms of his new life– single-parenting, online dating and reflection as a significant class reunion quickly approaches. Otto’s journey starts off with odd but exciting sexual encounters with relative strangers and then reconnecting with an old love who enlightens him in unexpected ways, all the while trying to ensure the happiness of his 9-year-old daughter.

The Paul Schneider we know and love from Parks & Recreation, Lars and the Real Girl and All the Real Girls shines through in this film as well. His subtleties and candor in his portrayal of the sweet but oblivious Otto Wall won him the Best Actor prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. What is especially fun to watch is how he engages so fluidly with each one of his talented female counterparts, from Melanie Lynskey who plays his detached soon-to-be ex-wife to Heather Graham, who plays an old girlfriend now thoroughly enjoying life as a divorce and Anna Camp, a stranger he meets online who at one moment is a wild adventuress and the next a frantic Christian riddled with guilt. The supporting cast is rich, and topping it off is Heather Lawless, who with very little time brings so much heart to the film and whose character really takes the film into a much-welcomed place with poignancy.

Angus MacLachlan’s first feature film is thoughtful, smart and sweet, but does not quite reach the level of Junebug— but it would be a great effort to match it. It is a nice follow-up that tries to follow the same tradition of deeply honest storytelling highlighted through very typical life scenarios, but overall is not as sharp, focused and effective as his 2005 gem.

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