Winner of the first Hollywood Film Festival, “Always Say Goodbye” is a promising first effort by writer-director-star Joshua Beckett. A slick romantic comedy with some poignant moments, the film could generate modest theatrical play in specialized venues. But pic is more likely to find its true niche on cable, where the soft-centered yarn’s casual nature would fit most snugly.
Photographer Nick Evans (Beckett) is a womanizer who has yet to find a reason to settle down. His latest conquest is clothing designer Anne Kidwell (Marcia Cross), whose self-possessed nature catches him off-guard. Nick finds himself in a rather unique position — he’s desperate for a second date.
The story proceeds through a typical developmental arc. The two move in together and enjoy a period of bliss before Anne comes to the grim realization that Nick is incapable of true commitment.
The film’s at its best when the relationship is working. A bathroom scene involving the removal of Anne’s diaphragm is unexpectedly touching and tender. But pic doesn’t have enough of these intimate moments to overcome the familiar and banal elements that dominate the piece.
Nick’s dilemma is that he’s taking wedding shots when he should be pursuing an artistic muse. He also has a domineering Jewish mom (Liz Sheridan) and a pregnant sister (Polly Draper) he feels obliged to protect. The script is guilty of the same pop self-rationalization it disdains in its central character.
Evans resembles — both as a director and actor — a minor league Billy Crystal. He embodies some of the sentimental, vulnerable aspects of Crystal, but has yet to develop a sense of humor about himself or a biting, objective comic eye. Cross is a unique persona, providing “Always Say Goodbye” with its heart and soul.
Handsomely crafted, the picture is greatly enhanced by Jack Anderson’s camerawork. The overall professional sheen provides a quality well beyond the film’s modest budget.