Even within the teen romance subgenre, Hello, Goodbye stands out as particularly bland, delivering signifiers and signposts in place of genuine substance.
Marketing materials for Netflix’s new teen romance Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between proclaim the film as, “From the producers of To All the Boys,” an apparent point of pride that scans more like a threat to anyone over the age of 15 who has been unfortunate enough to endure even a split second of that insipid pablum, which somehow managed to spread its anemic plot machinations over the course of three never-ending films. Length certainly isn’t an issue with Hello, Goodbye — at only 76 minutes minus credits, the movie is barely feature-length but still manages to feel like an eternity thanks to its bull-headed insistence on never once producing a single moment that seems the least bit organic or genuine. Based on the 2015 best-selling YA novel from Jennifer E. Smith — which, sight unseen, one still has to firmly believe is better than this schlock — Hello, Goodbye concerns Claire (Talia Ryder) and Aidan (Jordan Fisher), two great-looking high school seniors who randomly meet at a Halloween party when he performs “Twist and Shout” while dressed as Ferris Bueller. She has recently moved into town and doesn’t want to be distracted by romance, her sights set on Dartmouth and law school; he is an aspiring musician who is afraid to follow his dreams and instead settles on med school to appease his parents, so boo-fucking-hoo. (These two are nothing if not the Claire and Cliff Huxtable of the 21st century.) Unable to resist one another’s charms, they agree to date, but only under the condition that they will break up — drama-free, mind you — in ten months, when they both leave for separate schools.
Hello, Goodbye spends five minutes on the couple’s meet-cute and roughly a two-minute montage on the subsequent ten months, skipping ahead to their final day together, where Aidan has planned a number of activities that will hopefully convince Claire to continue dating him, regardless of the long distance. These activities naturally relate back to key moments in the couple’s burgeoning romance, as the film skips back and forth in time to reveal the impact they still carry. One such incident chronicles Claire and Aidan’s first fight, which revolves around him refusing to admit he farted and which the movie treats with the solemnity of The Deer Hunter. This is indeed such a crucial plot point that it gets brought up again at the climax, so obsessed is Aidan with the perception of perfection. There’s also another part where Aidan first tells Claire he loves her and she responds with “Easy breezy,” because, you see, Claire is afraid of commitment as a result of her mother having a ton of terrible boyfriends. Will she be able to utter those three little words before film’s end? That this is a direct plot point from the movie Ghost is never acknowledged, not necessarily surprising considering this film’s target audience, but the fact that it also pays homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which came out five years earlier, is both confusing and a bit maddening. Pick a lane.
It’s hard to determine if there was even a script for Hello, Goodbye before shooting began, even though one is credited to Ben York Jones and Amy Reed. It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that there are more musical montages than actual scenes of dialogue in the film, as if first-time feature film director Michael Lewen had three days to shoot and simply relied on B-roll footage to fill in the gaps. That Ryder is forced to endure this pap after starring in Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always — along with a supporting role in Spielberg’s West Side Story — and that it’s ostensibly supposed to be some sort of career upgrade only proves the ass-backward ways of the Hollywood star machine. She’s certainly better than the material warrants, imbuing a fair amount of recognizable human emotion into a glorified cardboard cut-out, and the film also gets strong supporting work from Ayo Edebiri and Nico Hiraga, two individuals also fresh from the indie film scene who are here relegated to the thankless roles of “best friends,” with Edebiri particularly beguiling as a timid theater geek hopelessly in love with her Spring Awakening leading lady. Fisher is fine, but looks about ten years too old for the part, which certainly speaks to the film’s disregard for any semblance of authenticity. If anything, Hello, Goodbye is just as afraid of commitment as its heroine — it’s little more than a series of signifiers and signposts posing as a romance. There’s simply nothing to be found here, in between or otherwise.
You can currently stream Michael Lewen’s Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between on Netflix.