Johnson, who looks terrific, brings frazzled comic energy to his anxious adulterer. As the cop looking into the murder toward which the plot leads, Ellen DeGeneres, though she's saddled with some dreary dialogue, also contributes to the film's tolerability -- there may be more range and flexibility in her discursive vocal patterns than was ever evident in her standup and TV acting.

On the margins of the plot are characters like the privately lascivious, publicly pious conservative senator (Barry Newman) and the smiling, silky pastor of Arquette's church (Andre Gregory). Compared to the real Bill Clinton or Bob Packwood or Robert Schuller, these are feeble stock figures indeed, yet Goodbye Lover carries on as if it were something more than a fluffy good time -- as if it were a withering indictment of corruption in contemporary America. To shoot fish in a barrel and then call yourself a marksman is pompous enough, but that pales beside missing those fish and calling yourself a marksman anyway just because you recognized them as fish. Goodbye Lover isn't a bad movie to sit through, but its sense of smug delight in its own cheap cynicism leaves a galling aftertaste.

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-- M.V. Moorhead

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