It's the battle of the blands in "The Good Guy," a highly ridiculous motion picture that puts forth a sliver-thin concept and then has the gall to offer little filmmaking panache to support it. Assuming a few lofty literary references will help add dimension to the picture, director Julio DePietro still must contend with dreary performances from the starring trio, insufferable acting from the supporting cast, and a dumbfounding bit of editorial "flash-forwarding" that effectively ruins any and all suspense.
A Wall Street selling machine, Tommy (Scott Porter) has it all: good looks, money, and a burgeoning relationship with "urban conservationist" Beth (Alexis Bledel), a sweet girl trying to keep the attention of a guy who lives life in the fast lane. Daniel (Bryan Greenberg) is a gentle underling at Tommy's Wall Street office, hoping for a shot at a desk job. When a position opens up, Tommy takes Daniel under his wing, teaching the sensitive soul a few things about clothes, crude banter, and easy women. When Beth catches Daniel's eye one afternoon at a bookstore, it causes an immediate feeling of attraction within the rube. However, when the budding Casanova learns of her relationship with Tommy, Daniel is sucked into the friend zone, developing Beth's trust while Tommy continues his womanizing ways.
In the very opening of the picture, within the first five minutes, "The Good Guy" makes it clear that Beth ends up with Daniel in some form of intimacy. Leaving Tommy out in the rain begging for money and/or a second chance, Beth has made her choice before the first reel has a chance to breathe. This early reveal storytelling method is a common editorial concept these days from filmmakers desperate to pull viewers right into the movie the moment the studio banners are finished flying. Forcing the puzzle pieces together rarely works, but it proves disastrous for "The Good Guy," which basically divulges all of its secrets right away, leaving a painfully dull picture to play without an ounce of suspense.
It's a shame DePietro was so adamant to hook audiences in with this tale of good guys versus lotharios, as a patient play with the characters might've resulted in a more gripping tale of relationship woe. Instead, the opening cripples the film, which embarks on a routine of unlikable characters trying to make sense of love, despite most of them being unworthy of such affection. DePietro sets up three NYC clichés (the bastard, the princess, and the doof) with conviction, but doesn't actually motivate them with any type of passion or intellectual design. The filmmaker pushes Beth and Daniel together through the world of books, having the characters bond over the troublesome developments contained within "Lolita," but the effort is transparent, trying to hammer in a cultured soul to passive lovebirds without any heavy lifting.
DePietro's efforts are not helped by the three stars, who have a weird way of draining the life out of every scene. Bledel basically coasts right through the picture without straining herself, while Greenberg and Porter compete to be the more forgettable actor (as usual, Greenberg wins), submitting colorless performances befitting their established skill level. And if you think this is some sweet love triangle of throbbing hearts, think again. The script is jam-packed with obscenity, reflecting the callous, unethical behavior of big city men and boyfriend-deprived BFFs, spewed out by a repellent supporting cast (including Aaron Yoo, Andrew McCarthy, and Jessalyn Wanlim) who are out to steal the movie, not assist it. I'm convinced Andrew Dice Clay had a hand in the screenwriting.
The anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation on "The Good Guy" runs on the brighter side, with the image looking a tad blown out, removing vibrant colors and meaningful lighting cues. It's troublesome when it comes to evoking a feel of the city, which is often reduced to an amber blob. Some EE is noticeable as well. Skintones lack life, but black levels are comfortable.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is fairly aggressive for such a moderate film, with soundtrack cuts filling up the track with a convincing energy, carefully balanced with the dialogue exchanges, which register cleanly. Not much of a low-end here, but there's a certain ambiance that's contained well, with a few instances of circular atmospherics to assist in selling bar and restaurant locations.
English and Spanish subtitles are included.
"In some ways I envision this film to be sort of a modern update of 'American Psycho,' without it resorting to him (Tommy) literally slashing people." And so the feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Julio DePietro begins, helped along by actress Alexis Bledel. While often dangling near total delusion, the track remains in a state of excitement, with the filmmaker doling out the information with enthusiasm, clearly jazzed with his feature. Talk of shooting in New York and DePietro's own experiences in the stock market are quite interesting, with Bledel helping the director along with her own observations on character motivations. DePietro does hit a few passages of play-by-play to grind the track to a halt, but there's much here to enjoy, especially when the filmmaker talks of subtext and intention that isn't actually in the film.
A Theatrical Trailer is included.
When the film finally concluded after what felt like three years, I openly screamed at my television, "That's it?" Even on a reduced scale of expectation, "The Good Guy" is stunningly empty and obvious, missing its mark as a cautionary tale or a romantic sojourn, instead slogging along a preordained trail of cliché to achieve a dramatic point only DePietro seems to savor.
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