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"The Good Girl"

Directed by Miguel Arteta.
Written by Mike White ("Chuck and Buck"). 
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Buscemi, John C. Reilly and Zooey Deschanel.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  8/27/02 


Hey, I’ll admit it—I hate “Friends” and everyone associated with the NBC sitcom.

But, if Jennifer Aniston decides to do this movie thing full-time, then I’ll hang out.  She is great in the new film “The Good Girl” for being anything but, and her turn is so un-star-like that you sometimes forget that she is married to that Pitt guy.  Texas homegirl Justine (Aniston) works at the shitty dive store Retail Rodeo, a Wal-Mart rip-off that has every piece of white trash in the city working there.  Justine’s home life seems even worse than her day job—she is married to a good-guy stoner (John C. Reilly) and she wants badly to get pregnant but her husband has got “bad sperm.”  Things start to change for the 30-year-old Justine when she meets new cashier Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the twosome begin an affair that has some bad consequences for everyone involved.

“The Good Girl” is one of the few movies of the genre to mix comedy and drama so well.  Everything that happens at the Retail Rodeo is hilarious, from the pissed-off employees to the “specialists” at the cosmetics counter to the picnic benches out in front of the store that make up the store’s lunchroom.  John Carroll Lynch is great as the store manager, and Zooey Deschanel is perfect as Aniston’s co-worker Cheryl—you can just see the angry teenagers that work at Kmart and you basically have Cheryl’s role in the film.  Tim Blake Nelson plays Reilly’s best friend Bubby in the film and his take on what it would be like to be a woman is funny...but, his tirade against his insane canine later in the film is much funnier.  And, Aniston’s comedic experience comes in handy here in her reaction shots to some of the activities in the store; her baffled looks, kooky walk and Southern speech patterns make for quite a character.

But, it is the dramatic elements of “The Good Girl” that make it worth recommending.  Justine’s voiceovers concerning life on the fringe of human existence are really interesting and made me reflect on my own life even while the film was still going on; her convictions really take hold of you after you leave the theater.  And, it poses good questions of all of us that have dreams, or feel stuck in a situation that we see no way out of; being stuck in a dead-end marriage or facing a life-altering decision, as Justine does in the final moments of the film.  Justine’s handling of her affair with Holden is intriguing (even if it is far-fetched), and it was cool to see a lead character stay consistent for a full film.  Holden’s passion for Justine made sense to me (most movie romances don’t) because of their shared hatred of the path that their lives seem to be heading towards; while Holden is too young at 22 to really understand what that all means, it is Justine that comes out looking the more immature because she doesn’t think things through.

“The Good Girl” is a surprising piece of entertainment.  It is a good crowd-pleaser that also has more adult-themed situations later in the film...and, it does a great job of painting a group of characters as real people with really big problems.  It does slow over the course of its final half-hour, and I felt like the movie tried to paint Reilly’s character as a better guy than he is near the end.  But these and other minor gripes didn’t take away from the overall experience; pretty good stuff overall.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09