The Good Girl (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner09/01/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Enjoyable indie pic from the creative team behind Chuck & Buck – it boasts a superb cast and features an excellent performance from Jennifer Aniston.

Writer Mike White and director Miguel Arteta were the creative duo behind the success of indie hit Chuck & Buck a couple of years ago and The Good Girl is their eagerly-awaited follow-up film. As such, they’ve assembled a brilliant cast, who each turn in superb performances and although the film lacks the quirky, off-the-wall appeal of their previous film, it’s still an enjoyable drama.

Life Going Nowhere

Jennifer Aniston plays Justine, a young Texan woman who feels stifled by her small-town existence. Married to house-painting stoner husband John C. Reilly, she works in the local ‘Retail Rodeo’ store (essentially K-Mart), where her colleagues are a typically small-town-minded bunch – including a fanatic Christian security guard (Mike White), a punkish ‘rebel’ (the lovely Zooey Deschanel) and her vaguely trailer-trashy best friend (Deborah Rush).

However, Justine’s world gets shaken up by the arrival of the store’s new cashier, Holden (Donnie Darko’s Jake Gyllenhaal), a moody teen who wants to be a writer and has named himself after his idol, Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of Catcher In The Rye.

Initially sensing a similarly frustrated soulmate, Justine finds herself drawn to Holden, until his teenage intensity pushes them both into an ill-advised affair…

Amazing Aniston

The performances are excellent, particularly Aniston, who gives an immensely understated performance that’s about as far from her Friends character as it’s possible to get. It confirms what her previous ‘non-Rachel’ performances (Rock Star etc) have only hinted at – that she’s an extremely talented actress who deserves bigger and better roles. Certainly, she’s the only member of the Friends cast whose post-Friends career seems assured.

There’s great support too, especially from John C. Reilly (who has the unusual distinction of being in no less than three films currently on release) and Tim Blake Nelson, who nearly steals the film as Reilly’s so-called best friend who isn’t above a little sexual blackmail when push comes to shove. Similarly, Deschanel makes the most of her minor role as the attitude-laden Cheryl - the PA announcements that get her demoted are definite highlights.

Immensely Touching And Well Observed

However, Gyllenhaal, as good as he is, is now in severe danger of being typecast, since he played more or less exactly the same role opposite Catherine Keener in Lovely & Amazing. Which means, essentially, that he is A Very Lucky Bloke Indeed.

The film is extremely well observed and Aniston’s portrayal of someone who senses their dreams dying and flirts dangerously with self-destructive behaviour is immensely touching. Her scenes with Gyllenhaal are particularly well handled – we can see the initial attraction but the moment that they act on it, both the audience and Aniston realise that the supposed chemistry isn’t there and that she’s made a terrible mistake.

In short, this is well worth seeing – the script is sharp and has some good lines, and Aniston could yet surprise the world with an Oscar nomination. Recommended.

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The Good Girl (15)
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Content updated: 13/12/2017 12:52

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