Otto Wall is the protagonist of Goodbye to All That. Played by Paul Schneider, he’s a nice enough guy, although he’s a little clumsy, a little dumb, and a little unobservant. Early in the film, he has an accident which renders walking difficult. A scene or two later, and his wife, Annie (Melanie Lynskey), decides that their marriage is over. Poor guy. They share custody of their daughter, Edie (Audrey P. Scott), although it seems like Annie sees her more than he does. What’s a guy to do?
Well, in the case of Otto, you go out and find a bunch of women with whom you can have one-night stands. The first is someone he used to date, Stephanie (Heather Graham). Next, there’s Mildred (Ashley Hinshaw). Finally, there’s Debbie (Anna Camp). Each woman gets one or two scenes, because the focus is on Otto and how he’s dealing with the divorce. That’s really what the film is about. It’s a portrait of a man who had a set plan in life, and now that he’s been forced to deviate from it has no idea what he’s doing.
Outside of the casual sex, Goodbye to All That contains some surprisingly poignant moments. It’s a comedy — although there are only a few laugh-out-loud moments — but because it’s an indie comedy, it is also allowed to be smarter and say more than your average Hollywood rom-com. There are hints at darker issues and bigger stresses, and one almost wished they were explored further, except that would be a different movie altogether. You can’t go down that path while maintaining the spirit and tone that this movie contains in its current form.
Where the film fails is in lacking a distinct direction. What’s ultimately going to happen? Not a whole lot, evidently. There’s some growing and discovery, but it kind of happens arbitrarily. The ending will probably feel like it comes randomly and too soon. It’s easy to enjoy watching Otto, but when there isn’t really that much of a plot, any ending will come across as just a random point to conclude. For Goodbye to All That, it comes more or less after Otto learns a single lesson.
So, it’s a well-meaning, but not entirely successful indie rom-com. Aren’t those kind of a dime a dozen? While you might not have seen a film exactly like Goodbye to All That before, you’ve seen something similar and there really isn’t a whole lot that it’s going to be able to say or make you think about that you haven’t already. It’s not deep or profound enough to overcome that, and its plot doesn’t really do enough to make it worthwhile, either. This is a film that fits into the “good, but not really worth seeing” category.
At least it does serve as a reminder that Paul Schneider is a very good lead, at least for movies like this. He’s charming and deadpan, all while being clumsy and a little aloof. Melanie Lynskey is fun as Annie, although she only really gets a couple of scenes in which to shine. Audrey P. Scott is a better-than-average child actor. Heather Graham, Ashley Hinshaw, and Anna Camp don’t get enough time to do anything other than act as eye candy.
Goodbye to All That marks the directorial debut of Angus MacLachlan, the writer of Junebug and Stone. This might be a better film than the latter, but it doesn’t come across as smart. It’s more enjoyable, but it doesn’t really have a lot to say when it all comes down to it, and it doesn’t get to explore the dark sides of the issues it presents. It can only hint at them, lest it ruin its comedic tone. In some respects, that’s too bad, but it’s probably a more marketable film for that. Does anyone really want to watch the dark sides to a divorce, especially now that more than half of all couples (in North America, at least) will wind up getting divorced?
If one were to ask me if I’d recommend Goodbye to All That, I’d reply with a question of how many indie rom-coms they’d seen. This isn’t much different from many of the other ones they might have seen in the past, and as a result wouldn’t really be worth watching, since it doesn’t excel past its familiarity and doesn’t have enough to say to make it otherwise worthwhile. It’s good, sometimes funny, charming, and has good acting, but it’s very same-y.