Pros: Johnny Depp tries to play a serious role; dividing the film into chapters; final thoughts Cons: a whole bunch of tired cliches “Richard Says Goodbye” / The Professor
Directed by Wayne Roberts
Starring: Johnny Depp (Richard), Zoey Deutch (Claire), Rosemary DeWitt (Veronica), Danny Huston (Peter), Siobhan Fallon (Donna), Odessa Young (Olivia), Devon Terrell (Danny), etc.
Companies Global Road Entertainment, Automatik, Leading Media
Year of release 2018 (in Ukraine 2019)
The film premiered at the Zurich International Film Festival in 2018. At first the film was called Richard Says Goodbye, but then for its worldwide release in 2019 it was replaced with the more laconic The Professor. They did this to avoid parallels with another film directed by Wayne Roberts, Katie Says Goodbye (the films do not have any common lines). Our drama appeared at the box office under the title “Richard Says Goodbye,” and this is a more correct choice.
The main character of the film is a literature professor. He goes to the doctor to understand the cause of his back pain, and unexpectedly finds out that he has stage four lung cancer. Richard tries to talk to his loved ones, but his daughter and wife are too busy with themselves, so his diagnosis remains unspoken. Realizing that life at one moment turned out to be empty and useless, Richard takes the path of vigorous self-destruction – he is going to die anyway, so why not do it in the company of drugs and alcohol. The professor even turns work into fun. He kicks out half of his students, and Richard takes those who stayed to listen to his lectures to a bar. This helps him distract himself, but does not solve the problem within the family.
The drama “Richard Says Goodbye” was Johnny Depp’s return to cinema, where there are no pirates or wizards’ magic. In it, Depp’s character is far from campy grimaces and excessive gestures, so Johnny tries to be serious. He puts the most effort into scenes of alcoholic apathy and casual philosophy, sometimes reminiscent of Depp himself in the past few years.
The idea of plunging an academician into the abyss of a personal crisis is far from new. Director-screenwriter Wayne Roberts added another long-standing tragic device to the film – the news of the inevitable death of the main character. That’s why there’s nothing in Richard Says Goodbye that we haven’t seen before. Unfortunately, there is not enough screen time to understand what the hero was like before receiving the diagnosis. But now it is obvious to us that, realizing the approach of death, Richard feels inviolable. This is reflected in his perception of reality and attitude towards others. Thus, he makes sarcastic comments towards students, walking the fine line between sarcasm and humiliation.
Without much screen time, the viewer is simply shown the stages of self-destruction, which are gradually transformed into a newly acquired philosophy. At some point, Richard begins to give parting speeches, which are difficult to disagree with due to their obviousness. And he, of course, washes them down with alcohol.
There was an on-screen blunder related to alcohol, which neither the actors, nor the director, nor the cameraman noticed. In one of the scenes, Johnny Depp’s character makes a toast at a gala reception, which brings the film closer to the denouement. At this moment, Johnny is waving his glass of wine with all his might, and this lasts for several minutes. At some point, a completely different glass of champagne appears in his hand, which is especially striking due to the emotional tension of the moment. This does not spoil the film at all and does not affect its plot; rather, it remains in the memory as an obvious misunderstanding.
“Richard Says Goodbye” tackles a serious topic, but despite everything, it does so in an extremely casual and, at times, deliberately nonchalant manner. The decision to divide the film into chapters and add symphonic melodies to it works to its advantage. The tape looks easy, and also does not abuse time, fitting into an hour and a half. At the same time, the picture is not particularly imprinted in the memory and presents a couple of overly cliched moments.
a film about making death your best friend so you can learn to appreciate life. It’s corny, but it still works.