Anyone not busy being born is busy dying.
In its heyday, Coney Island's boardwalk housed a wonderful amusement park and hundreds of food and drink stands serving masses of New Yorkers. Now, it is a rundown property a burnt-out shell of its former glory. But Max Silverman (Martin Balsam), a seventy-three-year-old survivor of a massive coronary, has a dream: he wants to re-open the hot dog and pineapple drink stand that folded into the heat of the summer twenty-two years ago. All he needs is a little help from some friends.
Fate draws the feisty old man together with Arthur Korman (Judd Hirsh), an eccentric middle-ager who arrives on the beach in the middle of winter to view the sunrise. Arthur, who once dreamed of sculpting monuments for New York City parks, is trying to summon the courage to quit his boring job at the Jingle Bell Display Company.
Also on the beach is Nancie Scot (Pamela Reed), Silverman's kooky daughter who has changed her name, bobbed her nose, dyed her hair, and is seeking a divorce from Eddie (Ron Silver). She tells her husband about her new career as an actress in TV commercials and the insight she has gleamed about herself from a therapist. Eddie is not impressed: "You're lookin' for fantastic and there isn't any!"
The three main characters in The Goodbye People all want to change their lives, and they are willing to go out on a limb to do so. Against all odds, they pool their money and energies to re-open "Max's Hawaiian Ecstasies." Similar to Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns, this movie celebrates this inimitable spirit of oddballs who refuse to bury their dreams, even when they seem impossible to achieve.
The Goodbye People is based on a 1968 Broadway play and it shows: the dialogue is stagey and the incidents limited to one central environment. But the ensemble cast is excellent, and the screenplay abounds in very funny one-liners. This movie is both enjoyable and endearing.