It’s Friday evening in a Southern California suburb and three recently divorced dads are meeting their wives at a fast food restaurant to take weekend custody of the kids.
Such exchanges on neutral territory are “the new American ritual,” according to “Bye Bye Love,” a wry and witty comedy from 20th Century Fox about coming to terms with separation and learning to date again.
Weisman previously worked with script writers Gary David Goldberg and Brad Hall on the critically acclaimed TV series “Brooklyn Bridge.” Individually, the trio have racked up a host of accolades for other TV shows including “Lou Grant,” “L.A. Law” and “Family Ties.”
With a clever script that borders on farce and bravura performances from a host of gifted actors, the movie successfully balances a story laced with excellent one-liners, multiple plots and emotional drama.
It’s a world in which everybody used to be part of a couple. Donny (Paul Reiser) is a lonely real estate salesman who still carries a torch for his ex-wife after three years and her re-marriage.
In contrast, cranky Vic (Randy Quaid), a driving instructor, loathes his former partner (Lindsay Crouse), referring to her car as “the child support mobile.”
Then there’s Dave (Matthew Modine), a good-looking lady killer with a twentysomething girlfriend (Maria Pitillo) and an unstoppable roving eye. His “I’m so sensitive” lines wow the divorced moms he meets at Saturday afternoon Little League.
In a nice touch, the action is held together by an annoying and pompous psychologist (Rob Reiner), whose 48-hour “Divorce in the ‘90s” radio-a-thon infiltrates further and further into the plot.
As the weekend unfolds, Donny battles his loneliness and tries to patch up things with his 14-year old daughter (Eliza Dushku), who is drifting away from him.
While Dave fights off the women, Vic has a blind date from hell with Lucille (Janeane Garofalo). They’re polar opposites. The nightmare restaurant tryst culminates in a very funny scene in which Garofolo keeps seizing the second wheel in Quaid’s driving instructor car.
Divorce and dating have long been staples of American comedy, and director Sam Weisman (“D2: The Mighty Ducks”) does a fine job with his multigenerational cast, particularly the affable Reiser and the ever-versatile Quaid.
While the movie deals head-on with the pain of loneliness and the pitfalls of promiscuity, it is still a sanitized version of separation - a kind of sitcom divorce-lite.
Everyone always looks great. Kids are adorable. Lawns are manicured.
In this ideal, affluent suburb, the painful economics of single parenthood in America never really rear their ugly head.
And when Donny has a fling with Dave’s ex-wife, Susan (Amy Brenneman), it doesn’t come close to shaking the tight, supportive bonds among the trio of friends. This is about as good as divorce can get.
The 19-song soundtrack opens with Linda Ronstadt’s version of the Marlene Deitrich classic “Falling in Love Again” and features hits from a host of stars including The Spin Doctors, Phil Collins and Mary Chapin Carpenter. xxxx “Bye Bye Love” Locations: East Sprague, Newport and Showboat cinemas. Cast: Directed by Sam Weisman, starring Paul Reiser, Randy Quaid, Matthew Modine, Maria Pitillo, Rob Reiner, Lindsay Crouse, Janeane Garofalo, Amy Brenneman and Eliza Dushku. Rated: PG-13 Running time: 105 minutes