Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Miguel
Arteta and writer/actor Mike White; Scene specific audio commentary
by Jennifer Aniston; Alternate ending montage; Outtakes; Deleted
scenes with optional commentary; Scene access; Interactive menus.
FRIENDS star, Jennifer Aniston, finally breaks away from her
Rachel Green TV persona to star as a discontented 30-year-old
who longs for a more fulfilling life than the one she currently
leads with her husband.
The result is a quirky, offbeat black comedy in which the actress
excels, turning in the type of performance that has prompted talk
of an Oscar nomination, while also providing the more discerning
viewer with plenty of food for thought.
Her depressed Retail Rodeo worker, Justine, is a million miles
from her jovial Central Perk-dweller, coming across as a hopelessly
frustrated loner who yearns for some sort of release from the
banality of her hum-drum life.
Desperate to get pregnant, but equally keen to flee the boredom
of her marriage with her house-painter husband, Phil (John C Reilly)
and his ever-present best friend, Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson), Justine
seeks refuge in the arms of a soul-mate co-worker, Holden (Jake
Gyllenhaal), a creative, passionate young man who offers her the
chance of escape.
But Holden brings with him his own set of problems and as their
affair intensifies, so does his obsession, creating a chaotic
web of blackmail, larceny and love that forces Justine to choose
between doing what is right and wrong.
The Good Girl marks the second collaboration between director,
Miguel Arteta, and screenwriter, Mike White (whose previous outing,
Chuck and Buck, opened to universal acclaim) and once again examines
the life of outsiders, or people who do not have the tools
they need to live a full life and to cope with life properly.
Without exception, everyone in the film - from Justine to Holden
- undergoes some form of personal crisis and a need to feel wanted
and accepted within the context of the society in which they live.
And it is by drawing together such an eccentric collection
of characters, who actually have plenty to say about life, that
Arteta and White excel, lending the film its quirky, independent
feel, while also giving it a strong grounding in reality.
Aniston declares, at the beginning of the film, that, as
a girl, you see the world like a giant candy store - but
things quickly change. It is almost the flip-side of Forrest
Gumps life is like a box of chocolates anecdote,
and a far more incisive look at the pitfalls of growing up,
middle-age and the confusions and anxieties it brings. A sweet
ending seems unlikely from the start.
White penned the story during a dark spot in his
own life, while he was struggling to make ends meet, and claims
he wanted to create a feeling that everyone is imprisoned
and secretly plotting their escapes.
This sense of frustration is perfectly realised, albeit in a
darkly comic way, with Arteta striking a nice balance in tone
As a result, Aniston really gets to display a different side
to her make-up, expertly conveying the giddy excitement of her
sexual re-awakening with the suffering and torment it later
brings, which is not bad for a performance that had to be shoehorned
around her Thursday and Friday commitment to Friends.
Her chemistry with Gyllenaals misfit Holden (a character
who believes he is named after the hero in Catcher in the
Rye) is also well-realised, and allows the superb Gyllenhaal
to further build on a strong reputation garnered from performances
in Donnie Darko and This
Is Our Youth (in the West End). The ever-dependable John
C Reilly is also good value as the likeable Phil, while Tim
Blake Nelson and Zooey Deschanel provide meaty support.
At a time when Friends may soon come to the end of its nine-year
run, it is reassuring to know that Aniston may well still be
there for us on the Big Screen - so long as she continues to
opt for material as good as this. The Good Girl, as its name
suggests, makes for extremely enjoyable viewing.