Judge Chris Claro doesn't say goodbye, just "so long."
Tragedy plus time divided by a good five minutes of material equals standup comedy
For almost as long as there have been standup comics, there have been films about them. From Olivier's Archie Rice and Deniro's Rupert Pupkin, to Sandler's George Simmons, the sad (or psychotic) clown who works in-one, pursuing the approval of a roomful of strangers is a natural protagonist. Usually these lonely laugh-seekers are men, unable to relate person-to-person, but thrive during their time onstage. Rare is the movie standup from the distaff side, but that is the conceit on which Goodbye Baby turns.
Facts of the Case
Melissa (Christine Evangelista, The Joneses) is a recent high school graduate with no money, no prospects, and no interest in living at home with her mother's Animal House-quoting boyfriend. Eschewing college, Melissa moves in with her brother and his boyfriend in their Manhattan apartment and, influenced by legends like Belushi and Farley, sets off to find her voice on the stages of New York's comedy clubs.
As a mashup of coming-of-age story, romantic comedy, and behind-the-scenes showbiz tale, Goodbye Baby is an uneven film, with moments that are literate and revealing, competing with trite revelations and predictable "surprises." One of the things that work is Evangelista's performance as the confused, angry, hopeful Melissa. Though she looks a little too old to be fresh out of high school, Evangelista imbues Melissa with a range of colors and keeps the viewer off-balance as to her true intentions and motivations. Contending with older, more experienced male comics—one of whom is portrayed by Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live—Melissa finds herself in the minority of comedians. As she slowly develops as a comic—her material is some of the best stuff in the script by Daniel Schechter (The Big Bad Swim)—Evangelista shows Melissa's evolution from frightened teen to self-assured performer.
As authentic as its comedy milieu is, Goodbye Baby falters when it steps out of the once smoke-filled gin mills to focus on Melissa's life offstage. Beset by contrived tragedies and one particularly hard-to-swallow plot twist, Schechter falls back on Screenwriting 101 devices that are obvious and lazy.
Despite the faults of the script, director Schechter gets a lot out of his actors, particularly those in and around the comedy club where Melissa works as a waitress and a comic. The always-welcome Jerry Adler (The Sopranos) plays the club owner with a world-weary mix of cynicism and affection. As Adler's son and business partner, Kevin Corrigan (Big Fan), an actor who can be both charming and creepy—sometimes at the same time—has some nice moments as well. And the one and only Cameron Frye, Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) has a cameo in the film that he carries off with dignity.
For a movie that clearly has a low budget—evidenced most readily by the fact that Schechter usually only shows the first row of the comedy club, thereby saving on background extras—Goodbye Baby has a handsome sheen. Schechter's director of photography, Josh Silfen, enhances the intimacy of the story with warm light and a well-composed frame. The 5.1 stereo serves the film well, asGoodbye Baby is music heavy, thanks to Melissa's jazz guitarist brother. The soundtrack pops and the club scenes sound genuine. Cinevolve doesn't stint on extras for the film, either, including a filmmakers commentary, deleted scenes, and extended cuts of the standup performances.
Goodbye Baby is an odd bird, a disjointed amalgam of overwrought drama and showbiz success story. If you're a fan of either the process of standup or overblown melodrama, give it a look. All others say goodbye, baby.
Guilty by reason of manipulation.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinevolve Studios
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