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THE GOOD GIRL, 2002
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mike White, John Carroll Lynch, Deborah Rush, Zooey Deschanel, Tim Blake Nelson and John C Reilly
The plot revolves around a young married woman whose mundane life takes a turn for the worse when she strikes up a passionate and illicit affair with an oddball discount-store stock boy who thinks he's Holden Caulfield.
I admit it, that the main reason into why I bought this movie was because of Jennifer Aniston. Yes, I’m shallow in those ways and will watch Miss Aniston because of growing up watching “Friends” on continuous loop on my trusty collection of VHS’s. But, what’s this? Other people I respect appear in the movie as well? That guy who played Dewey Cox? Or the bloke, who was Jack Black’s friend in “School of Rock”, wrote this and appears throughout? How about the woman who captures the heart of Elf in, err, “Elf”? I was intrigued to say the least.
Justine (Aniston) is not exactly living the American Dream. Working for what probably is minimum wage in a soulless discount store, she is not the only one who hates her job. Security guard Corny (White) isn’t feeling the love, nor is make-up girl Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel). Even her home life isn’t the best that it could possibly be. Married to Phil (Reilly), an overweight house painter who basically gets stoned whenever he hasn’t got a brush in his hand, Justine sees everyone as being in the same boat as herself; desperate, and not really that exciting. That is except Holden (Gyllenhaal). An attractive chap, she actively goes out of her way to befriend him which in turn evolves into an affair. With Justine’s feelings mixed up to say the least, she feels that it is right to leave Phil and run away to the emotional circus which is her lover. The question is though; will she ever go through with it?
Aniston’s films have not always been kind to her and decision making of these roles, whoever that came to, was poor. “Picture Perfect” was nearly as bad as “Step Brothers”, and “Leprechaun” was just as awful. Now, the movie in question is not exactly a blockbuster. No CGI or any action scenes that would make Bruce Willis want to don that white vest for a fifth film are evident anywhere throughout. According to www.imdb.com, its budget was $5 million which is pittance really when you consider the stars that appear in this movie. But what this film does do extremely well is that it relies on a solid script to make this a great movie.
And it is Aniston, whose character keeps the action going in the minimal amount of clunky scenes that are present throughout this ninety minute movie. Her desperate character is moving to say the least, and a person which many working in low-grade employment could relate to. Justine is a character with no direction in her life, and meanders through life mindlessly without any ambition to better herself at all. Stuck in a rut, you could say. If this role was given to a lesser-talented actress then you might have had a rather poor film on your hands here but it is not the case since Aniston gives the performance of a lifetime in a role which should have been celebrated more at the time of its release.
First and foremost, I do not like Jake Gyllanhaal. Not one bit. His downcast performances I have seen him appear in have been dire. You can stick your “Donnie Darko” and I will push you off a cliff if you recommend “Bubble Boy” to me. Well, that was my opinion before watching this movie but since viewing it I have started to appreciate his work even more because of this performance alone. His depressive character Holden is someone I would normally find appealing to watch, but having personally worked in low grade jobs I can relate to his struggles to better himself but without much success. Okay, I admit that I wouldn’t quite go to the same lengths that he does but I thought his performance was damn good and one which nearly bettered Aniston’s.
And the other performance in this movie? John C Reilly’s Phil is quite remarkable. Just like his wife, he is not the most ambitious of people but is a likeable fellow and sees the better things in life as a bonus, rather than a hindrance as his wife does. Although his screen time is not as extensive as others, Reilly does awfully well during this limited appearance. To list the other performances would take an age, but the one which really made me sit up and pay attention was Deschanel. The store floozy, she seems to enjoy her job up unto a point and takes advantage of her manager’s liberal work ethics. She is the comical character in an otherwise dull setting who never fails to raise a smile. Thankfully, casting agents sat up and paid attention to this role as Deschanel has since been in regular appointment since the release of this movie.
If you prefer your movies to be on the Disney side of things, forget watching this. But if you prefer to watch a movie which features realistic characters that are played by A-List people, then by all means watch “The Good Girl”. I promise you won’t regret it.
THE GOOD GIRL