The Good Girl

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Justine (Jennifer Aniston) doesn’t have a bad life per se, but she has become restless and longs for some change. Her marriage to house-painter Phil (John C. Reilly) has turned dull and while he means well, he simply isn’t the kind of guy who sparks in terms of personality. But she loves him and is resolved to stay with him, even though he and his best friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) often spend evenings watching television and smoking weed. This disturbs Justine, but as she has never taken any kind of risks in her life, she is hesitant to try a new direction, though a new coworker soon prompts her into reconsideration. The new guy at work is Holden (Jake Gyllenhall), a quiet younger man who keeps to himself, though Justine soon strikes up a friendship. It all starts out with some rides home, but soon spirals toward romance and before she knows it, she has cheated on her husband, several times even. This causes all sorts of internal issues for Justine, especially since she neglected a coworker at a vital time, has been less than sociable at home, and might have been caught at a motel with Holden, since Bubba’s truck was there also. As she tries to cope with her situation, she finds herself having to make decisions she never imagined being involved with, but will she find happiness in the end?

I have to admit, I assumed this would be a typical romantic comedy, since Jennifer Aniston held the lead role. But even so, Aniston is often fun to watch and she blew me away in The Good Girl, as both her performance and the movie itself weren’t what I had anticipated. Instead of a fluff romantic comedy, The Good Girl is a dark movie that explores some serious, universal subjects, like boredom, missed chances, and difficult choices. As you’d expect from writer Mike White (Chuck & Buck), this movie has touches of comic content and sometimes they’re light, but then some of them remain as black as can be. This kind of unstable tone is very hard to keep balanced, but White’s writing and Miguel Arteta’s direction pull it off and do so in grand fashion, delivering one of 2002’s best and most surprising pictures. It has some flaws of course, but has a realistic texture that makes you overlook those flaws, so it all seems believable. I do think some of the events require some suspension of disbelief, but never to a large extent and because they happen under extreme duress within the characters, its not that hard to look past. I simply cannot say enough about The Good Girl, as it is a fresh and riveting picture that has some powerful emotional content, but also never fails to entertain its audience. And since Fox has served up a nice disc, save the flawed visual effort, I am able to offer this release a more than solid recommendation.

As with all the other cast members of Friends, Jennifer Aniston hasn’t been able to break into movies with great success, at least not until now. Although she has done some likable, fluff roles before, she has put herself on the cinematic map and shown she can be someone other than Rachel, thanks to her performance in The Good Girl. Yes, we all knew she could be decent in light romantic comedies, but if she wanted to prove she’d have a career post Friends, she had to come up with a dynamic against-type effort. And she has that in The Good Girl, a role in which she showcases immense talent and handles the complex, dark material with ease, even though she carried the burden of the central character. You can still see traces of Rachel within her here, but she moves beyond that and goes in directions Rachel wouldn’t dare and of course, that helped her prove she could more than handle herself. Other films with Aniston include She’s The One, Picture Perfect, Office Space, Rock Star, and Bruce Almighty. The cast also includes John C. Reilly (Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother Where Art Thou, Minority Report), and Jake Gyllenhall (Donnie Darko, Lovely & Amazing).

Video: How does it look?

The Good Girl is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame edition included on the disc’s flip side. I was a little let down in this department, as Fox usually offers up excellent visual treatments, but this one is average at best. I know the movie was made on a low budget and the visuals are supposed to be a tad washed out, but I still think this could have been a much better presentation. The image is on the soft side, so detail is never overly high and that’s fine, given the intended visual scheme. The colors look solid, but unremarkable, as they’re simply there and not as bright as it seems they should be. I didn’t expect vibrance here, but I do think the hues are a little restrained in this one. I did find contrast to be more than solid however, though it isn’t enough to save this one from a middle of the road score.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included Dolby Digital 5.1 option is a good example of how to produce a solid, active mix with limited material. This movie is driven by dialogue throughout, but the surrounds aren’t removed from the experience, not even close. You won’t hear immense power from the speakers, but you will hear some nice atmospheric presence and subtle audio touches, the kind of stuff that adds realism, without being a distraction. The music also comes through well, which enhances things that much more. But the dialogue remains the focal point of this movie, so it comes through in clean and crisp fashion at all times. This disc also includes a Spanish language option, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

An audio commentary with director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White starts us off, in which the two plod through the session with minimal insight offered. I do think a few of the comments were good, but too much time is wasted and unless have a ton of free time, this one isn’t worth a spin. A second track with star Jennifer Aniston is also found here, though she only talks about select scenes. She provides a solid, often humorous track from an actor’s perspective, so don’t miss her comments. This disc also contains a gag reel, nine deleted scenes, and an alternate ending “montage,” though no theatrical trailer was included.

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