GOOD GIRL, THE
Reviewed March 1st, 2003 by Brian White
In small towns, people feel old before they actually become old. Justine, played by Jennifer Aniston, is having a midlife crisis. What is interesting is that she is only thirty. She has gotten everything out of her life that it has to offer. She is an “old woman” before her time.
The Good Girl is an independent-ish film that tells the story of a clerk at a department store in a little town. She is married, she cannot conceive, and she hates her job. Her husband paints houses, and smokes a lot of pot. She often returns to find him and his coworker philosophizing about paint, or other topics, on her sofa. She feels stuck.
Into her life comes Holden (Tom). He is everything that her husband is not. He is also lost, having returned home from college after having been kicked out. He is a writer, and he talks to her about his ideas. The two of them fall for each other because they have something in common: nobody “gets” them, but they “got” each other at first sight.
The two begin an affair, and the movie charts Justine's descent into the complications that can occur when you try to keep big secrets in a small town.
The Good Girl is certainly a comedy, but it is a complex one. I've read it described as a black comedy, but that doesn't seem to fit. Basically you have tense situations, from which comedy is natural. You also have personalities that are quite funny. The manager of the department store and the bible study guy are hilarious in their own way. Also, look at Holden's dad. He's John Doe, a recognizable actor, but he's given no lines! This choice is absolutely perfect for his character. It is all about his presence. John C. Reilly and Tim Blake Nelson are great as Justine's husband, and his best friend. Nearly everything they do and say on camera is funny.
While the script of the film is certainly clever, in the wrong hands this movie could have become a rather drippy affair. Director Miquel Arteta is owed much credit here. An interesting aspect of how this story is told is that Holden's artsiness isn't taken seriously by either the film, or by the protagonist. Instead, he's just another character, and his-struggling artist nature is just his thing. He is a ray of light to Justine, but he certainly isn't perfect.
These are small town issues, and they are handled in a small town way. Justine finds her own solutions, and does things quietly.
The video on the DVD is a little disappointing. Despite the fact that a huge star like Aniston is in the picture, the film didn’t have a huge budget. The image isn’t the sharpest that I’ve seen. It is a little grainy, and shadows in certain scenes seem to glow blue. I saw this effect on two different televisions, that did not display the same effect with other DVDs. I also saw the pay-per-view cut of the film, and the glowing shadows were there as well. This problem is certainly the result of the filmmaking, or the transition to video. The transfer is 1.85:1 anamorphic, with a full-screen transfer on the flip-side.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is in keeping with the nature of the film. It is good in a very subtle way. While never hitting you over the head, the mix shines in quirky little ways. Listen to a clerk walk out of the storeroom with keys jangling. The mix is realistic, without being disruptive. It is modest, and appropriate.
For extras, there is a feature-length commentary from director Miquel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White. It is interesting to hear White discuss the themes, while Arteta discusses how the film comes across. It is also interesting to hear White discuss being in the film, as he played Corney, the security guard. Jennifer Aniston also provides a scene-specific commentary. She reflects upon doing her first love scene (surprisingly, there’s a bunch of padding between them), and discusses her pride in the film here and there. Also included are a gag reel, and an alternate ending.
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