April 13, 2003

The Good Girl

The Good Girl was written by Mike White and directed by Miguel Arteta, the same team who did 2000's loved-hated Chuck & Buck. Jennifer Aniston plays Justine, a 30-year-old Texas woman who works in a small department store, is married to a dope-smoking house painter (John C. Reilly doing his usual bang-up job), and is almost completely numb to the monotony and meaninglessness of her existence. A disaffected 22-year-old who calls himself Holden (after Salinger's character, of course) (Jake Gyllenhaal in a scenery munching turn) gets a job at the store, and the two become friends and then lovers. Things start getting complicated for Justine as Holden lets his first love become an obsession.

Arteta does an incredible job with this material, making a movie with a very even affect which isn't that easy with a screenplay that's basically a really depressing comedy. Aniston is surprisingly believable as the depressed housewife. The supporting actors all do nice work, especially Zooey Deschanel who is reason enough to watch any movie she's in and actually made one of her lines one of the most poignant moments in the film for me (When she says "You need a ride?" to an uninterested Holden, you get a look at a whole alternative course of history for all of these characters.) Tim Blake Nelson is creepy-endearing as Justine's husband's painting partner/buddy who has a sizeable crush of his own on Justine.

The DVD has deleted scenes and two commentary tracks, one with just Aniston, the other with Smith and Arteta lamenting all the great lines that had to be cut from the screenplay in the editing process. There's also a "gag reel" which consists mostly of shots of the actors bursting into laughter and is a welcome reassurance that they had some fun making this grey little movie.

Verdict: 3 stars (out of 4)

Posted by jeffy at April 13, 2003 08:27 PM

I usually defer to my sister and brother-in-law when it pertains to most-things-movie, as they have a broader range of experience. But I feel that I have to speak up when it comes to Jennifer Aniston.

I agree with the rest of Jeff's comments about The Good Girl, except for those regarding title character. With the exception of one almost-smile, I don't think that Aniston had a single expression the entire movie. I don't understand where all the critical acclaim is coming from. I could shuffle around a movie set like an automaton too. Nobody would pay me a few million bucks to do it though. I guess that I think that good acting is more than just staring blankly at others without moving a muscle.

Posted by: Rachel at April 15, 2003 05:10 PM

What I thought was interesting about Aniston's performance was exactly the thing Rachel points out. She managed to basically keep from emoting (there are actually a few more times where she does have some reaction than Rachel would lead us to believe) which as an "Actress" is a pretty gutsy thing to do.

I'd also like to disagree with Rachel that she could "shuffle around a movie set like an automaton". Rachel is one of the most animated people I know and I think she'd find the automatous shuffle a little more challenging than she thinks ;-)

Posted by: jeffy at April 17, 2003 04:58 PM