Film: OK, Enough, Goodbye / Tayeb, Khalas, Yalla (2010)
Label: n/a/ Region: n/a / Released: n/a
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Synopsis: A pastry vendor in Tripoli copes with the sudden departure of his protective, elderly mum in this pale dry comedy-drama.
Special Features: n/a
Written and directed by Daniel Garcia (who also functioned as cinematographer) and Rania Attieh, OK, Enough, Goodbye deals with a fortysomething pastry vendor in Tripoli who struggles to find his own identity after his mother decides to suddenly return to her home town of Beirut, leaving her son home alone, albeit with a fridge packed with labeled Tupperwared food for about a week.
The son goes through his daily motions, tending an array of pastries no one buys, meeting with friends now and then, and taking the neighbour’s bratty kid to a ruined amusement park before he takes a crack at ending his longstanding bachelorhood by courting a prostitute, and later hiring an Ethiopian maid who has little desire to stay under his employ.
Much of the film deals with banalities, and to an extent it works – power outages, physical vestiges of wars, a populace somewhat unwilling to mingle and pack streets as consumers and socialites, and the ever-present specter of the Lebanese Civil War – but the central character is so dull it’s tough to hang on to the end, and there are weird discontinuities, from his mother’s sudden flip of never leaving the house to disappearing for good; and the son’s ability to pay bills when it’s plain his shop makes no money, and the pastries and cookies he makes daily go to waste at the end of the day.
Perhaps unintentionally, the filmmakers seem to infer he may not even be a pastry chef (just a vendor), since the character is consistently spinning tall tales to impress friends and hookers, and lying about his mother’s eventual return home. When the neighbour’s son is sent to apologize directly to mum about smashing her garden flower pot, the son takes him to an abandoned ‘fun fair’ so the question of her absence is quickly forgotten.
Goodbye has some clever moments of pale, dry absurdism (the meeting between the son and the maid’s cruel employer is funny for the politically offensive, qualitative descriptions of Filipino, Ethiopian, and Sri Lankan women), but the narrative is also occasionally interrupted by a device that should’ve been more consistent: each character address the camera in grimy video footage, revealing a small detail of their past lives – essentially character details the filmmakers otherwise deny in the rest of their scenes. The elderly mother used to be a dressmaker; the Ethiopian maid tells of the abuse she’s encounters at the hands of rotten managers and employers; the neighbour’s child plays with guns and makes a game of terrorist iconography; and the son shows off his model car collection. These camera confessions occur once, and it’s baffling why the device is used at all.
There’s also a bizarre fetish for showing the son eating, often in long scenes which may illustrate his boredom, but more often slow down already meandering scenes. As Goodbye progresses, there are junctures where it could switch tracks and tell a more direct story. Early in the film, the son lies to a travel agent in order to return pricey tickets because the refund can only be accomplished if he produces a wife. He layers his lies so badly that the only exit from the mess is either to walk away and eat the loss, or grab someone from the mall and pretend to be a couple. He chooses to eat the financial loss, which is certainly a conscious choice by the filmmakers to tease the audience with possible conventional misadventures that never to occur.
For its flaws, Goodbye does provide a rare glimpse into a city where the ghosts of the past exist in decaying structures, sparsely populated commerce centers, and cultural clashes and taboos which seem to hover below normalcy, yet can ignite if there’s just the smallest spark. In place of any music score the filmmakers opt for a really rich, environmental sound design, and the 5.1 mix seems to enhance the son’s unfocused, stagnant life: sounds wash back & forth, city noises pierce and intrude his apartment, but all these aural annoyances are tolerated or shrugged aside because there’s little will or choice.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan
Categories: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review