The cinematic sexual conquests of a “nice-guy-turned-bad-boy” often have viewers cheering and hoping for a love connection, but what happens when the protagonist is a middle-aged, newly-divorced man with a daughter? Angus MacLachlan’s feature debut, Goodbye to All That, investigates such a dilemma and has Cupid’s alternate set of arrows flying directly back at Mr. Lover Man.
Paul Schneider charmed as Mark Brendanawicz on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, and it’s this endearing persona that his characters boasts in Goodbye to All That. After his wife (Melanie Lynskey) leaves him for no apparent reason (“We never fight”), Otto (Schneider) discovers that a single life may not be so bad. He may re-connect with old girlfriends on Facebook while utilizing the single guy blues vibe, which can do wonders over a couple glasses of wine. In fact, a beautiful ex named Stephanie (Heather Graham) makes her true intentions clear, thus opening up Otto’s sexual spectrum even more: he’s not tied down! Once he manages to limit pathetic breakdowns and enhances his single-guy spell, Otto has women knocking on the door for more, even if they’re not entirely convinced by his new persona. By not recognizing his true self, Otto fails to recognize the concerns of his own daughter Edie (Audrey P. Scott) — the most important reality.
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MacLachlan wrote the 2005 hit Junebug — the film responsible for launching Amy Adams’ career — and provides a unique portrait of 21st century dating in Goodbye to All That. Just as middle-aged Otto proves capable of navigating social media, MacLachlan shows he’s up-to-date as a director exploring the modern romance game. In other words, he suggests scenarios without directly highlighting them (and with subtle perfection). Otto acknowledges his new relationship status over dinner with Stephanie, but he’s unable to finish a sentence that references their online connection (“I saw on the…”). What he wanted to say is, “I know your entire Facebook profile.” Otto finds himself talking dirty on a chair (and naked) opposite the brilliantly-named and equally naked character Mildred (Ashley Hinshaw), however director MacLachlan stays away from the awkward set-up scenes; he gets straight to business. Otto even welcomes in a bible-loving bad-girl (Anna Camp), who consistently exclaims, “I’m Debbie Spangler!” Although MacLachlan’s direction could have used a little extra oomph, the poignant and hilarious writing deconstructs a seemingly good man oblivious to the carnage of constant romps. As his sex buddy Mildred tells him, “You’re kind of a disaster…but you’re a crazy fun fuck.” Winning?
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Schneider possesses a unique acting presence that allows him to shift from Cautious Facebook Prowler to Confident Sex Captain. He’s authoritative yet goofy, which is perfect for Otto’s dilemma; he’s become too detached from the most important issues. Otto could be the long-lost brother of the Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly characters from Step Brothers. But he’s not singing “Boats and Hoes”; he’s shopping for his daughter and breaking into his wife’s Facebook account. MacLachlan made an excellent casting decision with Schneider, although I never experienced a “wow” moment — that came from Ashley Hinshaw. I don’t know where she’s been, but Ms. Hinshaw jumps off the screen like a classic New Wave actress. She’s part Brigitte Bardot and part Catherine Deneuve. I’d like to see a rom-com with her and Schneider in the lead roles. Angus MacLachlan’s Goodbye to All That is a witty romance with real-life consequences for millennials to consider.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.