The Good Girl
Fox // R // August 7, 2002
Review by Geoffrey Kleinman | posted August 7, 2002
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The Good Girl I've seen a lot of movies that deal with characters at a crossroads grappling with major life decisions, but none so unflinchingly honest as The Good Girl, the latest film from Director Miguel Arteta and Writer Mike White (the writer/director team behind Chuck & Buck).

In The Good Girl we are presented with a world of discontent, where no one seems to be living a happy or fulfilling life. Justine Last, played superbly by Jennifer Aniston, gets inspired to try to raise above the discontent of a dead end job and unhappy marriage to find some sort of happiness. Her journey is a long and windy road, and is far less predictable than most films dealing with this subject.

As with Chuck & Buck, nothing in The Good Girl is glamorized; we are constantly presented with the raw nerve of unhappiness and unfulfillment, which is a fairly depressing experience. If you're looking for a feel good movie, The Good Girl certainly isn't it. However, if you're looking for a film where characters are involved with some real soul searching, who aren't idyllic and who make mistakes, The Good Girl delivers in spades.

There are two things which make The Good Girl work so well: the fantastic script by Mike White, which is smart, funny and honest, and the breakout performance by Jennifer Aniston who simply embodies her character. Whether or not you are a fan of Aniston, you'll appreciate a look at the real depth she has as an actress and I hope to see her in more films that challenge her as an actress.

In addition to Aniston there are some other wonderfully subtle performances in the film. I especially liked John C. Reilly as Aniston's 'lacking' husband, and his trusty side kick played by Tim Blake Nelson. There are a number of revelations about relationships in this film and I found the one about the two friends especially well done.

I was less crazy about Jake Gyllenhaal, who I really liked in Donnie Darko and even Bubble Boy. His performance is the least natural of the actors in this film and he just doesn't seem to be able to match Jennifer Aniston's level of honesty and complexity in his role. It's not bad enough not to forgive, but I do think someone else may have been better suited to play his role.

Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed The Good Girl. It's a deep, complex look at the almost insurmountable task of finding happiness from complete discontent and it goes at the issue from a much more honest and imperfect angle than most films. Director Miguel Arteta and Writer Mike White seem to have a good thing going and their pairing here is an even stronger effort than Chuck & Buck.

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