Junebug screenwriter Angus MacLachlan makes his directorial debut with Goodbye to All That, and while there are flashes of the charm and empathy found within the former Phil Morrison film, MacLachlan’s directing is largely a tonal disaster, wildly oscillating between moments of father/daughter tenderness and sex-farce caricature. Although MacLachlan’s screenplay is filled with female characters, all of them are in service of Otto (Paul Schneider), a timid and unsuspecting schmo whose wife, Annie (Melanie Lynskey), drops a bombshell one afternoon by asking for a divorce. Otto is shocked and uncertain about what the decision means for his young daughter, Edie (Audrey P. Scott), but quickly snaps out of it once he discovers, through Facebook, that his wife has been sleeping with other men.
As such, MacLachlan’s film gradually morphs from an interrogation of a dwindling marriage into a curiously unpleasant and upbeat venture interested in probing Otto’s sexual reawakening, mostly through his making connections with past flames or friends he never had the proper chance to fully pursue. In effect, the film parallels the divorced-father crisis of Crazy, Stupid, Love., only instead of Ryan Gosling helping the clueless dolt find himself, it’s Facebook that serves as the medium, despite Otto’s initial, tiresome unfamiliarity with the interface. Problem is, MacLachlan does nothing remotely visual with the presentation, nor does he have anything particularly insightful to offer about the ways social media have altered contemporary relationships. Instead, Otto sends a clunky message (“It’s been a long time!”) and MacLachlan apparently finds his ignorance endearing, since he proceeds to spend the duration of the film letting Otto’s sexual appetite run rampant, with little by way of commentary or perspective.
These scenes include a reconnection with high school friend Stephanie (Heather Graham) and several interactions with a Bible-thumper named Debbie (Anna Camp), whose sexual energy is matched only by her post-coital tendency to thoroughly lament her sexual dalliances. Her character, and MacLachlan’s tone-deaf ability to navigate comedic nuances, is made offensive by the film’s insistence that her instabilities are peculiar and borderline sociopathic, while Otto’s years-long retreat into himself is merely a phase that he needs to be brought out of. Moreover, a scene of Edie finding Debbie’s vibrator in the backseat of his car is included as if to be an “uh-oh!” moment of comedic hijinks, but it’s only a further derailment of the film’s soon-to-be sincere retreat to love and marriage on the brink.
There are moments of clarity dispersed throughout, like when Annie convincingly tells Otto that she tries to teach Edie that “a woman has the right to be loved and to be known,” as a means to combat his womanizing, but little of that line’s potential resonance finds its way into the veins of Goodbye to All That, since MacLachlan remains perpetually preoccupied with Otto’s burgeoning solipsism. If Junebug focused on quieter moments of extended family dynamics, with its city-meets-country clashes delving into resonant, region-specific sensibilities, MacLachlan never goes beyond signpost sentiment, even ending the film by offering a metaphorical solution to Otto’s predicament with a phone call and coda that isn’t just on the nose, but practically a punch in the face.