Richard Says Goodbye
Johnny Depp, Rosemarie De Witt, Danny Huston, Zoey Deutch
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…wins with its witty dialogue, ability to surprise, and Johnny Depp’s central performance.
There was a time when Johnny Depp was more feted for what he did on screen than for what he did off it, when he was garlanded for his highly original takes on his characters, and his willingness to push his performances right to the edge. Lately, Depp has been squeezed by big budgets, special effects and ensemble casts, and his screen cache has sadly diminished somewhat as a result. But while it’s a small, direct-to-home-entertainment film, the very charming Richard Says Goodbye serves up a piquant reminder of what Depp can deliver when he’s gifted with a good script, a sensitive director, and enough room to move.
Written and directed by sophomore talent, Wayne Roberts (2016’s little seen Katie Says Goodbye), Richard Says Goodbye (which was originally titled The Professor…this is getting confusing) puts Depp front and centre as Richard, a rumpled professor at a snooty college who is informed in the film’s opening scene that he has inoperable cancer and only has a year or so to live. Broken but emboldened, the decidedly louche Richard opts to go out with a bang: he laughs when his wife (Rosemarie De Witt) admits to having an affair; he throws all of the disinterested students out of his class and goes all Robin Williams on those that remain, offering lessons about life instead of literature; he flips off most of the authority figures around him; and takes a very, very liberal approach to sex and drugs.
Though an odd, tonally unsteady mix of the edgy (Depp’s willingness to experience, um, certain new things comes as a welcomely risqué kink) and the sentimental (impending death, however, will do that to most filmmakers), the admittedly familiar-feeling Richard Says Goodbye still wins with its witty dialogue, ability to surprise, and Depp’s central performance. Funny, sad, sympathetic, warm and inventive, it’s the actor doing something that he hasn’t been asked to do that much of lately: acting.