Goodbye Lover

USA/Germany 1998

Reviewed by Mike Higgins


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Los Angeles. Estate agent Sandra Dunmore wants her lover, PR guru Ben, to kill Jake, her husband and his brother. Instead Ben breaks off with her and starts seeing Peggy, his ambitious employee. Jake tells his brother he knows of the affair he had with Sandra, whereupon Jake and Sandra murder the heavily-insured Ben.

Detective Rita Pompano and her assistant Nathaniel Rollins begin an investigation. Peggy claims to have secretly wed Ben just before his death. Jake and Sandra hire an assassin to kill Peggy. It transpires Jake is seeing Peggy; Jake pays the assassin to kill his wife instead. Sandra learns of Jake and Peggy's romance and kills the couple. Pompano realises that Sandra, the sole beneficiary of an $8 million insurance pay-out, is responsible for the three killings. The detective blackmails her into splitting the money before killing the assassin as he is about to murder Sandra. One year later, Sandra and Pompano are seen shopping together in LA's expensive boutiques.


A convoluted reworking of Billy Wilder's 1944 classic Double Indemnity, Goodbye Lover aspires to be a glossy, off-beat film noir. However, director Roland Joffé's film demonstrates neither the lightness of touch nor the generic discrimination necessary for such a precise exercise. In fact, Joffé's description of Goodbye Lover as film gris stands as an unwittingly acute comment on its muddled execution. Goodbye Lover has been languishing in the Warner vaults since its completion two years ago, a delay that afflicts it with more than the stigma of neglect. Moreover, its production roughly coincided with the outing of Ellen DeGeneres in 1997. One need hardly elucidate the overtones of DeGeneres' final, intimate interrogation of Sandra, bound, horizontal and bathed in red light, or their cosy departure together in the film's final scene. Had it achieved a more timely release, Goodbye Lover might just have got away with this coy allusion. As it is, Joffé's move from drama (The Killing Fields, The Scarlet Letter) to contemporary black comedy is culpable on other counts.

In the film's favour, cinematographer Dante Spinotti updates the baroque air of sleaze he brought to L.A. Confidential, lingering over the upwardly-mobile Sandra's stiletto heels and the harsh lines of her blonde page-boy bob. (The enthralling figure of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity comes to mind.) Costume designer Theadora Van Runkle adds a playful edge to this decadence, squeezing Arquette into some memorably vampish parodies of the outfits in which she clothed Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. (1967).

It's a pity then that the tepid script (by first-time screenwriter Ron Peer, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolaw) fails to echo this ripe visual wit, particularly in the character of Sandra. An unlikely church volunteer - her organ-loft seduction of Ben Dunmore during a choir practice is the film's most striking scene - Sandra belts out the hits of The Sound of Music to pep herself up. Handling such an ambiguous protagonist is new territory for Joffé, however, and he makes heavy work out of imbuing the murderous Sandra with an ironic, 'can-do' irrepressiveness. With each double-cross itemised in prolix detail, she's promptly lost in a welter of immaterial plot exposition.

Furthermore, the knowing inclusion of clips from Mildred Pierce (1945) and Pickup on South Street (1953) serves only to expose what the film lacks in comparison: namely, any hint at the underlying cause of Sandra's relentless self-advancement and a palpable suspense surrounding the myriad betrayals.

Patricia Arquette struggles as Sandra, despite imbuing similar femme fatale roles in Lost Highway and The Hi-Lo Country with memorable intensity. Partner-in-crime Pompano is little more than a hard-headed reprisal of DeGeneres's sitcom persona. The intended joke is that the dogged and unfashionable Pompano, a vision in plaid, eventually gets the better of the glamorous Sandra. Joffé even tries to suggest the pair's kinship by revealing a shared penchant for mirrors and cameras. However, much of the energy that could have been channelled into this potentially interesting subversion ends up in prurient speculation about Pompano and Sandra's developing relationship. The unfortunate consequence of this is to split up the most engaging partnership, that between the cynical Pompano and her naive Mormon partner Rollins (a winningly gormless turn from Ray McKinnon). As a misjudgement, it's minor compared to the catalogue that precedes it.


Alexandra Milchan
Patrick McDarrah
Joel Roodman
Chris Daniel
Ron Peer
Joel Cohen
Alec Sokolow
Ron Peer
Director of Photography
Dante Spinotti
William Steinkamp
Production Designer
Stewart Starkin
John Ottman
©Monarchy Enterprises B.V. and Regency Entertainment (USA), Inc
Production Companies
Regency Enterprises presents an Arnon Milchan/Gotham Entertainment Group/Lightmotive production in association with Taurus Film
Executive Producers
Arnon Milchan
Michael G. Nathanson
Co-executive Producer
Jon Cornick
Line Producer
Gerald T. Olson
Associate Producer
Van Spurgeon
Lightmotive Executive
Lennox Wiseley
Production Associate
David Minkowski
Production Controller
Bonnie Daniels
Production Co-ordinator
Diane Gutterud
Unit Production Manager
Gerald T. Olson
Location Manager
Kevin Halloran
2nd Unit Director
Gerald T. Olson
Assistant Directors
Gregory Jacobs
Rosemary C. Cremona
Jim Goldthwait
Script Supervisor
Ira Hurwitz
Shari Rhodes
Joseph Middleton
Principal Associate:
Michelle Morris
Close Range Aerial Photography
Flying Cam Inc
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Kyle C. Rudolph
Camera Operators
Gary Jay
Peter Gulla
Flying Cam Inc:
Louis Prezelin
Digital Special Effects/3D Sequences
Digital Effects Supervisor/Compositing Artist:
Eve Ramboz
Digital Production Supervisor:
Annie Dautane
Technical Supervisor:
Phillipe Reinaudo
Digital Matte-Painting Artist:
Jean-Marie Vives
Computer Graphic Artist:
Jean Baptiste Lere
Digital Production Manager:
Olivia Moreau
System Manager:
Michael Roy
Arassou Kichenassamy
Special Effects
Performance World
Special Effects Co-ordinator:
Bruno Stempel
Special Effects Co-co-ordinator:
Jerry Williams
Additional Editing
Richard Francis-Bruce
Art Director
Bruce Alan Miller
Set Designers
Gae Buckley
Caroline Quinn
Set Decorator
Tessa Posnansky
Costume Designer
Theadora Van Runkle
Costume Supervisor
Gilda Texter
Additional Costumes
Deena Appel
Key Make-up Artist
Debbie Zoller
Body Make-up
Kaori Turner
Effects Make-up
James Robert MacKinnon
Hair Styles Design
Barbara Lorenz
Main/End Titles Design
Nina Saxon/New Wave Design Group
Howard Anderson Co
Pacific Title/Mirage
Larry Groupé
Adult Choir
Mountainside Master Chorale, conducted by Bruce Rogers
High School Choir
Mt. San Antonio College Madrigal Singers, conducted by Bruce Rogers
Music Orchestrations
Larry Groupé
John Ottman
Frank Macchia
Musical Supervision
Michael McQuarn
Tracey Edmonds
Score Supervisor
Damon Intrabartolo
Music Editor
Amanda Goodpaster
Recording/Mixing Engineer
Darrel Harvey
Choral Music Consultant
Dr Harold Daugherty
"Fill My Cup Lord" by Richard Blanchard; "Goodbye" by Brian Mashburn, performed by Save Ferris; "Chained Minds" by Jonathan Owens, performed by Casual; "I Got You (I Feel Good)" by/performed by James Brown; "My Favorite Things", "Maria", "So Long, Farewell", "Climb Ev'ry" "Mountain" by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II; "I Have Confidence", "Something Good" by Richard Rodgers; "Perry Mason Theme" by Fred Steiner; "Do You Love Me That Much" by Liz Hengber, Will Robinson, performed by Peter Cetera; "Propaganda" by Brett Mazur (aka Epic), Orreolondo Mallory (aka Berchee), Gene Murphy (aka Shuv), performed by Wessyde Goon Squad
Production Sound Mixer
Pawel Wdowczak
Re-recording Mixers
Michael John Ross
Mathew Waters
Four Media Company:
Wayne Artman
Robert Harman
Frank Jones
Brian Harman
Brian Pierret
Jim Albert
Supervising Sound Editor
Gregory M. Gerlich
Dialogue Editors
David Grant
Louis Creveling
Robert C. Jackson
Yuri Reese
Thomas Jones
Jason George
Walter Spencer
Danielle Ghent-Fiorello
Supervising Sound Effects Editor
Cormac Funge
Sound Effects Editors
Javier Bennassar
Benjamin Cook
Dorian Cheah
Lisle Engle
Alan Freedman
Supervising Editor:
Susan Shin
Ossama Khuluki
Diane Marshall
David Fein
Ken Dufva
Mary Erstad
David Mann
Police Adviser
Chic Daniel
Stunt Co-ordinator
Rick Barker
Animal Trainers
Mark Forbes
Birds & Animals
Pilot, Flying Cam Inc:
Emmanuel Previnaire
Film Extracts
Pickup on South Street (1953)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Patricia Arquette
Sandra Dunmore
Dermot Mulroney
Jake Dunmore
Ellen DeGeneres
Rita Pompano
Mary-Louise Parker
Peggy Blane
Don Johnson
Ben Dunmore
Ray McKinnon
Nathaniel Rollins
Alex Rocco
Detective Crowley
André Gregory
Reverend Finlayson
John Neville
Jo Nell Kennedy
Akane Nelson
Kevin Cooney
company man 1
Will Foster Stewart
Nina Siemaszko
David Brisbin
Mr Brodsky
Lisa Eichhorn
Mrs Brodsky
George Furth
Mr Merritt
Barry Newman
Senator Lassetter
Michael Krawic
medical examiner
Max Perlich
Quincy Samuel Smith
Andi Chapman
John Prosky
forensic cop
Richard T. Jones
Michael P. Byrne
Michael William James
Frances Bay
old woman
Pavel Cerny
Ernie Lively
Danny Goldring
forensic officer
Rob LaBelle
Leslie Jordan
Lou Myers
police captain
Doug Spinuzza
Lee Weaver
old codger
Newell Alexander
minister 2
Molly Hager
young girl 2
Gerald T. Olson
Kenny Moskow
commercial guy
Bruce Rogers
choir conductor
Mary Lippman
Ken Lam
coroner's assistant
Darrick Lam
Marcus M. Shirey
police officers
Charles Gladney
cop at college
Lisa Cohen
battered woman
Chic Daniel
Detective Daniel
Jay B. Yarnell
Detective Yarnell
Mike Singer
company man 2
Gary Sear
company man 3
Erin Keim
young girl 3
Angela Blattenberger
Bianca Davis
Demi Dustman
Jenna Escoto
Courtney Hansen
Candace Kovacic
Juliana Kubicki
Brittany Mahurin
Kellie Roberson
Julie Shapiro
Ashley Thornton
Natalie Thornton
girls chorus
Warner Bros Distributors (UK)
9,081 feet
100 minutes 54 seconds
Dolby digital
Colour by
Super35 [2.35:1]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011