Paul Weitz has
come a long way since American Pie. From creating a teen
sex comedy that, while it had its laughs and heart, was more
about gross-out humor than anything else to crafting an
intelligent, heartfelt British drama (About a Boy), and
now to writing and directing an excellent, little film that
carefully straddles the line between comedy and drama that is so apparent in everyday life. Like I said, Paul Weitz has come a long
The marketing campaign for In Good Company would have
loved for you to believe that the film was either a comedy or a
romance. In reality, however, the film is so much more than those
simple genre definitions describe. About a Boy allowed
audiences to see that Paul Weitz could handle more serious fare
with a sure hand and a penchant for the unconventional. In
Good Company solidifies his place as a Writer/Director that
knows his subject so well as to be able to recreate the feeling
of actual, real life situations. He shows that, as most of know,
real life is not usually made up of all comedic or all dramatic
moments (like Hollywood movies would often has us believe). Life,
instead, is most often made up of moments that combine the two.
Comedy usually softens the blow of a very dramatic moment, or can
even work to make that moment all the more awkward. Drama, on the
other hand, can step in during very funny moments in life to
really turn things on their head. Weitz uses this dichotomy to
create a heartfelt story that actually comes a lot closer to true
life than most of today's films.
What makes In
Good Company such an interesting film is the fact that Weitz
never allows the conventional or the clichéd moments that we see
in so many movies to sneak into his film. This is an admirable
feat, especially considering that the storyline is ripe for such
"Hollywood moments" to occur. Let's see: Younger man
becomes older man's boss. Younger man then begins dating older
man's daughter, until older man finds out and they break it off.
Older man teaches younger man a thing or two. There's you're
basic storyline. In the hands of a less capable director, that
storyline would foster so many conventions and clichés that you
could probably guess exactly what would happen. In your typical
Hollywood movie, this is how it would most certainly all turn
out: Younger man and older man become buddies after older man
teachers younger man the values of good business. Older man
finally says its okay for younger man to date his daughter.
Younger man and older man's daughter get back together. Everyone
lives happily ever after. Weitz, however, has other plans for his
Company eschews that conventional, clichéd pattern of
events for something much more true to life. Weitz leaves his
ending somewhat open, but gives the viewer enough closure to know
that everyone will be okay. They've all been changed by what's
taken place throughout the film, but it looks as though they're
going to be okay. Instead of telling us exactly where these
characters are going or explaining away every little detail about
why they're making these decisions (as would be the case in so
many Hollywood movies that resemble a film like In Good
Company), Weitz shows confidence in the audience to actually
figure it out on their own. He doesn't condescend to his
audience, and that's what has made him such a good filmmaker over
his last two films. He believes in the intelligence of his
audience, and it clearly shows in his films.
In Good Company, though, isn't a perfect film. It's
slightly longer than it needs to be and, at times, seems a little
too precious. The good, however, far outweighs the bad here.
Weitz casting is spot-on as Topher Grace proves that he'll have a
career long after his days on That 70's Show are over.
His performance is assured and awkward - everything that his
Carter Duryea character needs to be - and his chemistry with
Scarlett Johansson (who finally gets a chance to kiss someone her
age) is highly believable. Dennis Quaid is at his best when he
shows just how simultaneously vulnerable and strong his Dan
Foreman character can be. Throw in some great excellent little
touches by character actors David Paymer and Philip Baker Hall,
and you've got yourself an all-star cast that only helps make the
story that much stronger.
Paul Weitz in
only getting better and better with each film. About a Boy
has slowly become one of my favorite films and I'm confident
that, with repeat viewings, In Good Company will do the
same. His visual style is starting to become more distinct - his
use of the extreme close-up as a visual motif is one of the most
visually exciting aspects of In Good Company - and each
successive film shows an increase of self-assuredness that allows
Weitz to test the limits of the conventional Hollywood film. This
latest film isn't simply a good comedy or a good romance or a
good drama. It is, instead, an amalgam of all three. It blends
each aspect into something resembling real life that we don't
often see in film today. And for that reason alone In Good
Company is a film worth watching.
Company is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen
transfer that shines in just about every way possible. The film
itself isn't all that visually dramatic, but the highlights are
certainly captured in this visual presentation. The film's visual
motif of the extreme close-up is portrayed beautifully by this
transfer's intricate detail. Shadow, lighting, and depth are well
delineated and even the exterior shots of New York City come
across beautifully. While there are not a lot of vibrant colors
throughout the film, the few times that they do appear bright and
rich. Fleshtones are accurate, and blacks are deep. The only
issues with this transfer are a bit of grain and spots from time
to time and a few instances of slight edge enhancement. Overall,
however, this is a stunning visual presentation of a film that's
not entirely visually stunning.
The audio on this disc is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 format
that handles the balance of dialogue and soundtrack very well. In
Good Company is a somewhat dialogue-heavy film, and this
track always allows the dialogue to be the main attraction. It is
always clear, crisp, and distinct, and never becomes overwhelmed
by the rest of the soundtrack. Spatial separation is very nice
across the front channels and, although you won't hear a lot of
surround effects throughout the film, the surround channels do a
great job of providing the soundtrack with a bit more power and
ambience. The soundtrack itself plays a very important role in
the film, and the score and songs come across beautifully
balanced on this track. For a film that doesn't exactly have an
incredibly dynamic soundtrack, this is a wonderful audio
The first, and
best, extra feature on this disc is an audio commentary
with Writer/Director Paul Weitz and Actor Topher Grace.
The two obviously became very friendly while working on the film,
and their relationship certainly shows on this track. Their chat
is breezy and conversational, which makes for a very entertaining
listen. They talk specifically about many scenes in the film and
explain some of the film's influences, but also take the time to
tell plenty of fun anecdotes from the set. Weitz and Grace do a
little bit of congratulatory back patting, but this track is, for
the most part, highly entertaining, funny, and informative.
Also included on
this disc is an approximately 23-minute featurette called "Synergy,"
which can be viewed all at once or as seven separate segments
("Stars," "Youth," "Getting Older,"
"Real Life," "New York Locations,"
"Editing," and "Story"). These short features
are your basic behind-the-scenes clips, but these are slightly
more interesting. There are fewer clips from the film, more
interviews and behind-the-scenes moments, and some intriguing
commentary from people outside of the film world. The best
segment is "Story," as it tells about the impetus of
the film and the actors' takes on the power of the story itself.
Each segment, however, is unique in its own way. "Real
Life," for instance, features interviews with people in real
corporate jobs, and "New York Locations" follows Paul
Weitz around the city as he gets some of his exterior shots.
Played as a whole, the featurette proves to be much more than
your typical EPK fare.
There are also ten deleted scenes with optional
commentary from Writer/Director Paul Weitz. The scenes
run about 16 minutes long and include some very funny moments
that simply didn't fit into the film. Since the original cut of In
Good Company was nearly 3 hours, there are quite a few
scenes here that could have easily worked in the film. Weitz does
a nice job of explaining why each scene was cut, and even why he
would have liked to keep it in the film if it were possible
time-wise. This is a good collection of scenes that make for a
nice addition to the film itself.
Finally, we have text biographies and filmographies
for Dennis Quaid, Scarlett Johansson, Topher Grace, Marg
Helgenberger, David Paymer, Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz, Rodney
Liber, and Andrew Miano.
Do yourself a
favor. Whatever you might be thinking about In Good
Company from seeing the trailer or reading the basic
description of the storyline, throw it out the window. The film
itself is much more nuanced and wide-ranging than anything you
could have seen in that 2-minute preview. Paul Weitz not only
gives us romance, drama, comedy, and commentary about corporate
downsizing, but he does it skillfully enough to combine the
elements into something that actually resembles real life - not
something we usually get to see in Hollywood movies. In Good
Company is a much better film than its trailer wants you to
believe. It's much more heartfelt and lasting, and its certainly
much more than your typical cookie-cutter romantic comedy. In
addition, Universal has provided a very nice audio-visual
presentation and some excellent extra goodies. All of which adds
up to a disc comes highly recommended. I urge anyone that might
be reluctant to sit down and watch In Good Company to
give it a shot. You might just be surprised to see that it's not
at all what you expected.