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The Good Girl
2002 - R - 93 Mins.
Director: Miguel Arteta
Producer: Matthew Greenfield
Written By: Mike White
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C. Reilly
Review by: Harrison Cheung
   

Oh-oh, you're married to Brad Pitt?
Writer Mike White is the Gen Y answer to Daniel Waters. Remember Waters? He was the talented writer who gave us the cult hit HEATHERS but soon floundered, tempted by big budget movies as he worked on successively bad movies – from HUDSON HAWK to BATMAN RETURNS.

But Mike White so far seems to be staying true to his voice – an acerbic sense of humor that blossomed with the much-missed FREAKS AND GEEKS TV show, the must-see indie CHUCK AND BUCK, and most recently THE SCHOOL OF ROCK.

In 2002, White reunited with his CHUCK AND BUCK director, Miguel Arteta, to deliver a quirky black comedy about a woman who unhappily approaches middle age with all the requisite re-assessment of her life, which includes a fling with a high school boy.

It's a stereotypical conceit of movies to question small-town folk why they live in a small town. Does that mean that everyone in small town America is unhappy? Naturally, the premise goes, everyone wants to get out of town and move away. Rural life must be extremely suffocating and unsatisfying. And in this very familiar one-horse town with one rabidly enthusiastic church and one large department store, we find Justine (Jennifer Aniston), a woman unhappy with her lot in life.

She works at a local "Retail Rodeo" (a Walmart-like purgatory) and sees the same faces day in and out. Her husband, Phil (John C. Reilly), is almost an Al Bundy archetype - a boorish housepainter who prefers to hang with his best friend and toke up. This domesticity hits her like a ton of bricks so when Holden, a mysterious young man, joins the store, she is immediately attracted to his eccentricity. This young man happens to be *very* young – he’s a troubled high school student. But Holden (played by Jake Gyllenhaal who was brilliant in the sleeper DONNIE DARKO), is fixated on CATCHER IN THE RYE and fancies himself a poet and a writer. Justine falls for him immediately and they begin a torrid and increasingly self-destructive affair.

THE GOOD GIRL is a smart movie, never dull, and always interesting. Very funny and pointed dialogue, there are too many times when it veers into being an over-the-top mockery of small town life. The movie saves itself from too many clichés by making Justine a unique oddity in a town of odd characters. Aniston’s "Justine" is very tightlipped and dry-humored. You can see her yearning for excitement and change. Jake Gyllenhaal is wonderful as Holden - inhabiting the intense manchild character in such a way that there were times when terms of endearment sounded more like murderous threats!

The second half of the movie falters when 'the good girl' starts making some very odd choices that are neither explained nor seem reasonable or logical. There’s a disturbing sex scene that, though not explicit, was pretty uncomfortable to watch. It’s as if writer, White, had come up with a fabulous character like Justine but didn’t know what to do with her – have her run away with the boy or return to her husband? In the end, THE GOOD GIRL asks the eternal question – are you happy? – and it answers the question that happiness is found in varying degrees.

 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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