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The Good Girl Review

By Shawn McKenzie 08/16/2002

As we reach which is most likely the last season of "Friends," the concern from fans of the actors in the show is that they will go on to make good movies. Technically, the most successful "Friends" alum is Courteney Cox Arquette, but that is mainly because of the talent, directing and writing around her in the Scream movies (not that she isn’t talented, but those other things didn’t hurt.) The most successful alum critically so far has been Lisa Kudrow, with her hilarious performance in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and her unique standout performance in The Opposite of Sex. With the movie The Good Girl, Jennifer Aniston may be nipping at Kudrow’s critical heels, and if the film is successful, she may go after Cox Arquette’s crown next.

The Good Girl is the story of Justine Last (Aniston), a store clerk for a place called the Retail Barn whose life has become stale and depressing. Her husband Phil (John C. Reilly) hangs out with his friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) after their painting jobs smoking pot. She thinks it’s his pot smoking that is keeping them from having a baby. One day she meets the latest clerk for the Retail Barn named Holden Worther (Jake Gyllenhaal.) Holden is a young man who still lives with his parents. He is depressed too, but I think most of his depression is self-imposed. His life isn’t necessarily that hard, but he feels the need to escape into the world of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (hence his name, Holden, named after the main character Holden Caulfield.) They both strike up a friendship (since they have the mutual depression thing going for them), which eventually leads to a romantic relationship. Soon she is having after-work liaisons with him at a motel and making out with him in the stock room. She eventually starts to feel guilty about the affair and wonders if she is still a "good girl." She wants to end the affair, but he is obsessed with her and makes it difficult for her to end it. Would you believe that this is a comedy?

The Good Girl is the second collaboration between director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White (who also plays Corny, a religious zealot and security guard for the Retail Barn.) Their first movie was Chuck and Buck, one of the first movies filmed entirely with digital video to get distribution. That movie was disturbing, but very funny. I wouldn't say that The Good Girl is a "feel-good" movie, but it kind of makes you feel good about your own life after watching it.

It's hard to pick just one performance that stands out in this movie because they are all so good. Aniston definitely gives a career-peak performance, and as usual, Reilly is great. Nelson stands out with a very funny performance as Bubba. Zooey Deschanel steals every scene she is in as Cheryl, the store announcer, who, as her boss Jack Field (John Carroll Lynch) puts it, gets a little "creative" on the microphone. Even White is hilarious as Corny, who seems to think everyone is doomed to go to Hell.

I will miss "Friends" when it finally goes off the air. This past season alone has proven that it still has legs. Since it is going to end soon, I do feel better that some of the alum of the show are making movies like The Good Girl. Now...where is my critically acclaimed Matt LeBlanc film?

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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