The Good Girl

Review Date:
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer: Mike White
Producers: Matthew Greenfield
Jennifer Aniston as Justine Last, Jake Gyllenhaal as Holden Worther, John C. Reilly as Phil Last
A nice married girl in a small town is bored with her routine life. She looks around her workplace one day and notices a peculiar boy reading a book. The next thing you know, the two are connecting on various levels and she is suddenly an adultress. But as time goes by and her lies begin the mount, it’s obvious that something has to change in her life. Or does it? Rachel Green is now a character in Aniston’s past.
This is a good movie with various positive attributes but ultimately not as satisfying to me as a whole. In particular, the film’s second half is not as good as its first, and the resolution of the narrative, not as insightful as I thought that it might be. Great performances all around though, with the top of that list being reserved for Mrs. Pitt herself, Jennifer Aniston, who finally seems to have chosen a role which allows her to showcase her apparent acting talent. She’s not the cutesy, bubbly, single girl with boy troubles anymore (well, actually…she still does have the boy troubles, but she’s a more defined character this time around), she’s the convincing depressed 30-year old woman who has no idea what she wants out of life. I’m generally a pretty big fan of what I like to call “depressing love stories”, in the same vein as FRANKIE & JOHNNY, and this movie is exactly that. It’s not a goofy romantic comedy to which you could take your girl and hope to feel her up at some point of the evening. It’s actually a pretty serious story, which does have many light moments, but ultimately goes deep inside the psyche of a woman who is as clueless as to the next step in her life, as I am. Which is why I could relate to Aniston’s character even more, as well as Jake Gyllenhaal’s, the introverted writer, who despite also putting up a solid performance, should seriously look into widening his range of parts in the future, since playing the “weird guy” is starting to wear a little thin. The chemistry between the two leads is also very “on” and I really liked how the screenplay slowly developed each character as it ticked along.

Unfortunately, things got a little too ambiguous during the film’s second half (why does she keep lying until the very end?), and even though I was still quite involved all the way through, I really didn’t like how Gyllenhaal’s character was, in my opinion, deserted and also didn’t get much out of the film’s ending, which almost made it feel like Aniston’s character hadn’t really learned all that much. The movie was entertaining though, and I especially enjoyed all of the secondary characters, many of whom were a lot of fun. Tim Blake Nelson was particularly hilarious as the best buddy, and John C. Reilly, amusing as usual (keep smoking that pot, buddy!) The folks in the retail store were also very good, including Zooey Deschannel who played the sardonic “rebel chick” as well as could be asked and Mike King, quite believable and downright creepy as the Christian security guard (the man also wrote the screenplay to this movie). The scenes with Gyllenhaal’s parents were also a hoot and one particular sequence of John C. Reilly holding on to one of Aniston’s boobs while trying to masturbate, was as memorable a scene as they come (and yes, you’re goddamn right there was pun intended in that last line!) Yes, things started to feel a little redundant after a while and the ending wasn’t really all that powerful, but there’s plenty of goodness to enjoy in this film, especially if you appreciate the “darker” romance tales as I do. Not a complete success but enchanting performances and one especially superior showing by Aniston make it a decent watch. I also love how she changed her way of walking for the movie…very erect, very numb. Husband Bradley must’ve given her some pointers on that…rock ‘n roll!

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

The Good Girl