It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Bye Bye, Love" is a soppy sitcom that would like to pass as the quasi-heartfelt story of three divorced dads and their problems with the single life. It is possible to juggle lots of family stories (see Ron Howard's wonderful "Parenthood"), but this movie seems unfinished, as if the ingredients are there, but not much consideration was given to whether they fit, or were necessary.
The movie opens at a McDonald's, in a long and shameless product placement. "Bye Bye, Love" looks, in fact, like a McDonald's commercial for its first 10 minutes, as the restaurant serves as neutral turf where ex-wives can drop off the kids for their ex-husband's visitation rights. Nothing in this endless sequence has the poignancy and wit of one perfect line from the similar "Divorce, American Style" (1967): "Come to Uncle Daddy!" We meet three guys who are not handling divorce very well. Dave (Matthew Modine) has a young girlfriend, and also keeps half the moms from his son's soccer team on the line. Vic (Randy Quaid) is furious that his ex-wife is spending money on new tires for the car. Donny (Paul Reiser) still carries a torch for his ex-wife, and frets over his bad communication with his teenage daughter.
During the next two days, as each father deals with weekend child custody and his own shaky social life, the movie will try, and fail, to deliver as a comedy. Something is wrong with the pacing, I think. Look at the episode, for example, where Dave plans dinner with his new girlfriend Kim (Maria Pitillo), who takes him seriously and hopes this is the evening she'll make real progress with Dave and his kids. The doorbell rings, and two other "soccer moms" turn up with their kids. Dave pretends it's just a coincidence, but Kim suspects he wants to be surrounded by women, to avoid a commitment. The material's here for a sequence that's both biting and funny, but it never develops.
There's no real payoff, either, in Vic's date from hell (Janeane Garofalo), who drives him to the point of catatonia during an endless evening in an Italian restaurant. She's one of those people who reads the menu forever, and then orders and sends back five entrees before deciding to eat her date's dinner. What's her problem? An eating disorder? Insanity? Hostility toward this harmless man? The evening drags on and on - much too long - until the dinner date stops being a scene and starts being a problem with the screenplay.
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