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an offbeat gem
Buddy-5115 September 2002
Jennifer Anniston gives a beautiful, heartfelt performance in `The Good Girl,' a film totally in tune with the rhythms of everyday life. Anniston' Justine Last is just one of the many people inhabiting this Deep South, Bible Belt town who find themselves leading lives of quiet desperation, imprisoned by the dreary sameness of their daily routines. Justine works at one of those generic five-and-dime drug stores that so define the culture of Middle America. Yet, Justine's job and work environment are not the only sources of her frustration. She is also married to a well-meaning but dull blue collar worker who would rather spend the evening sitting on the sofa getting stoned with his partner than engage in any meaningful relationship-building with his wife. At the age of 30 then, Justine is ripe for some kind of life-changing experience when in walks Holden Worther, an introverted, obviously disturbed young co-worker who sees in Justine the very soul mate he has been searching for all his life, a person who will understand him and share his hatred for the life they are both leading.

`The Good Girl' is really about the contrast between what we would like our lives to be and what they really are. Justine knows that the `easy' choice would be to pull up stakes and simply run away with Holden, abandoning a town, a marriage and a husband she has come lately to both abhor and despise. Yet, something keeps Justine rooted to the spot, something that makes her understand that any decision she makes will end up hurting someone in the end besides herself. Perhaps she sticks around because she realizes that, for all his faults, her husband is, in reality, a pretty decent guy overall and that he really does love her. Perhaps she also realizes that Holden is more mentally disturbed than she is willing to admit and that whatever life she might have with him would only mean exchanging one set of troubles for another. Credit the Mike White screenplay with exploring the complex nature of the film's characters and relationships. We never quite know where the story is headed or how all the issues will get resolved - if at all. As in real life, the story here keeps bumping up against new and ever more challenging complications and, because we can identify with the messiness, we are eager to go along with it wherever it chooses to take us. The film also does a fine job showing how life takes wholly unexpected turns at times, such as when a fairly major character dies unexpectedly. The casual suddenness of the death throws us for a loop since we so rarely see death portrayed that way in the movies.

Miguel Arteta's deadpan, matter-of-fact directorial style brings out the black comedy richness inherent in the material. Amid all the pain and sadness, there are a surprising number of genuine laughs in the film as we see our own lives reflected in the people and incidents there on the screen. Actually, the film reminds us a bit - in its music, its use of voiceover narration and its unromanticized view of rural life - of Terrance Malick's great 1973 film, `Badlands,' a landmark in independent American filmmaking.

Anniston, who is probably in every scene in the film, carries the picture with her rich and highly empathetic performance. Even though her character is a woman slowly becoming deadened to the world around her, she still retains that spark of life and that absurd hope for the future that make her worthy to be the centerpiece of an intimate drama such as this one. Jake Gyllenhaal makes Holden both strangely appealing and a little frightening, so that, as Justine does, we come to admire his `uniqueness' of spirit (he has adopted his name from the main character of his favorite book `Catcher in the Rye') yet fear his increasing possessiveness. John C. Reilly as Justine's husband, Phil, and Deborah Rush as Gwen Jackson, Justine's sometime confidante at the store, also provide memorable, telling performances. In fact, there is nothing less than a superb performance in the entire film.

The question of whether or not Justine is really `a good girl' is, as it should be, left up to the individual viewer to decide. Some may feel she is; others may feel she's not. What really matters, though, is that `The Good Girl' doesn't try to impress us with the slickness that generally defines mainstream commercial filmmaking. Instead it lets its drama unfold in an unforced, believable manner, so that even its moments of greatest absurdity seem somehow strangely real and lifelike. It is a film that, in its own quiet, subtle way, manages to get under your skin - and keeps you thinking for a long time after you leave the theater.
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thoughtful slice of life
cherold6 November 2003
Years ago I had a conversation with some young guy who worked on the loading docks. He was frustrated by his life, felt inarticulate and incapable of escaping his plight or of really doing anything with his life. He had the wish but not the talent to express himself through art and felt he had nothing to look forward to. I thought of him while watching The Good Girl, a movie about a very ordinary person trapped in a hum drum existence.

I've noticed some discussion in these reviews as to whether The Good Girl is a comedy or drama, and I would suggest people stop trying to label the movie. The Good Girl clearly isn't trying to be either, but simply a movie that captures the life of someone who feels trapped, portraying both the drama and comedy inherent in life. It's a small, studied, intelligently written movie that's well worth watching. Don't worry about what it is, just watch it and take it the way you take life, not as a comedy or drama but just as what it is.
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Downbeat but engaging
bob the moo1 September 2003
Justine works at a supermarket in a small town and is married to her underachieving painter husband. She feels trapped and unable to deal with the stagnant pool that is her life. When a mysteriously dark young man begins to work at the supermarket she gets involved with him as a way out of her normal life into something more exciting. However things get much more exciting that she expected.

Rented by my wife as she searched for something in a sort of comedy/drama. As always she has pretty good judgement and better taste than I give her credit for. I had heard reasonable things about this film but I wasn't sure if it would just be another Friends clone comedy. Happily my fears were not realised and this film is actually quite a brave shot at being a character study rather than another one of her hollow rom-coms. The plot looks at an ordinary woman who is living a life that is far below what she thought she wanted. It is not spectacular but it works well on this level. We see her pursue her supposed dream but only getting sucked into other things that she doesn't want for her life. Not all the drama works as well as others and some twists and scenes are a little too much for such a low-key film.

The film has some laughs in it, but not so many that it hurts the main drama of the film. At times the comedy works well to compliment the main thread but occasionally it is misjudged and threatens to take away from it a bit. The fact that the film is quite down beat and low-key might put some off as it doesn't really set the screen on fire, however what it does do well is develop the character of Justine as you watch the film.

As such the film does rely on the acting and the majority of it is very good. As much as I dislike her performance in Friends (and thus every repeat she's done in the films), Aniston does very well here and her Justine is as far from her Rachael as is needed. Likewise her character is as far from any life she has ever lived, but she brings it to life and does develop well while still keeping it down to earth and relatable. Reilly and Nelson have good roles that get better as the film goes on and they give good performances. Nelson has the harder job of keeping his character within some sort of relatable reality and he does it well. Gyllenhaal's character is harder to get and is not treated as well by the film, but in essence he is the driver for Justine's journey and is developed well enough to do that. He plays him well and, with Donnie Darko, is in danger of only getting the `weirdo kid' roles.

Overall this is a good film that is maybe too downbeat and understated to be really called enjoyable. It is good to see a Hollywood star make a film that is driven by her character and she rises to the challenge and gives a performance that, although not earth shattering, is certainly better than all the stuff she's been doing of late.
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Touching, Compelling, Perfectly Ordinary
clarkykins9 March 2004
This movie is great, in my opinion, because its so misunderstood. Its so simple! The dialogue is not heavy, but it is perfectly articulated and emotional, and delivered brilliantly by Jennifer Aniston, who really shines as Justine, a small town girl who wants to get away from the monotony of life. Jake Gyllenhaal's role as a Holden Caulfield wannabe is well pulled off. I particularly liked how depressingly un attractive his drunken dramas were. You could see so many emotions in Justine, trying to ignore what she didn't like about him, trying to find something to love about him. Though my all time favourite aspect of the movie is the painfully realistic awkward sex and kissing. With an extreme but none the less effective ending, I'd easily give this film a biased 9/10! A little slice of real life, for a change.
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A fine movie
rbverhoef22 October 2003
'The Good Girl' is a sad comedy starring Jennifer Aniston as Justine. She works at Retail Rodeo where she is very unhappy. When she comes home she finds her husband Phil (John C. Reilly) stoned on the couch with his best friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) night after night. It is not very strange she is attracted to Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal) the new kid who comes to work at Retail Rodeo. He is even more depressed than she is, he reads The Catcher in the Rye and has named himself after that book. Soon she starts an affair with him and one night Bubba sees them together. Bubba makes his own little plan.

A thing that surprised me was the great acting. John C. Reilly, who was in every great movie in 2002 (also 'Gangs of New York', 'Chicago' and 'The Hours'), is great as the husband, Jake Gyllenhaal terrific as the disturbed kid and most of all Jennifer Aniston is superb as Justine. Here she everything but Rachel from 'Friends' and that is a very good thing. She is really acting and it is one of the best performances of 2002.

The sad story is very good as well and there is some fine comedy, especially with another worker at Retail Rodeo names Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel). She insults customers all the time and says the strangest things; the customers hardly notice. Funny, sad and very good is what 'The Good Girl' is in the end.
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hideous person (SPOILERS)
juliejuliette13 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
SPOLIERS - i thought Anniston's character was completely hideous by the end. because a relationship has become inconvenient for her, she 1) almost tries to kill her lover by feeding him poison berries 2) goes to his parents and tries to get him commited... perhaps he is ill, but she totally lies about the relationship to protect herself, and going to the parents portrayed in the film as uncaring, distant and hated by their son is a total betrayal of him... 3) finally she betrays him again and he shoots himself. She could have let him leave town without telling the police where he was - sure, it would have been a little uncomfortable for her at retail rodeo, but to betray him like that? life goes on for Justine however, especially since she is able to convince her husband her baby is his. one could argue she was doing him a favour... but when the whole town will be suspicious of the parentage.... i can deal with morally ambiguous characters, but justine turned out all bad and just so very selfish & base. that's what i got out of the movie. anybody else?
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Nonchalant both about its brains and its humor
moonspinner5525 June 2003
Jennifer Aniston excels as small town cashier, stifled in a rudderless marriage and miserable at her boring job, who has an affair with a younger co-worker, leading to a series of confounding personal events. Black comedy is initially bright and biting, subtle about its comedic elements and characters while gently satirizing the middle class aesthetic. Unfortunately, the film takes a wrong turn late in the second-half and never quite recovers, leading to an emotionally unsatisfying finish. The performers are all terrific, especially John C. Reilly as Aniston's pot-smoking husband; but, as the screenplay loses steam so do the actors, and the final events are mechanically offbeat--engineered to be quirky. **1/2 from ****
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One of the best written pictures of 2002
Quinoa19841 September 2002
Mike White, writer of The Good Girl, deserves the most credit here. While there is good direction and good performances all around, the writing tops the lot by getting the audience to feel for the characters and to understand their human nature from start to finish. Plus, there is a even handed amount of humor (sometimes from stoners and sometimes from quirks in the store) to go along with the drama.

And the performances- Jennifer Anniston shows she can actually do something other than Friends and portrays small town Justine with her wants, desperation, disgust, and ultimitely fears. Gyllenhaal is as compelling as her passionately crazy co-worker, self based on The Catcher in the Rye if only to himself; Reilly and Nelson give the best performances of the picture (and should've gotten a little more screen time) as pot head painters with aimless destinies.

The Good Girl is a keen portrayal of small town angst at the never-ending, often monotonous and uninspired/unfortunate basis. One of the better dramedies of the year. A-
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Worth seeing but difficult to really like
MartinHafer17 June 2014
Jennifer Anniston stars as Justine in "The Good Girl", though she is far from being good in this film. Justine is bored with the monotony and lack of direction in her life. She is especially bored with her husband, Phil (John C. Reilly)--a nice but vacuous guy who'd rather smoke pot and drink beer than anything else. So does she go to her husband about her feelings of inadequacy? Nope. Instead she begins an affair with a co-worker--a disaffected goth-like guy named Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal). Of course this all ends up in HUGE complications--and what exactly these are you'll have to learn for yourself if you see this movie.

This film about dissatisfaction is well made but also very different. There is no nice object lesson in the film nor are the characters particularly nice folks you could are about when their lives go out of control. It also seems to indicate that when you are in trouble, the best course of action is to lie your butt off! Additionally, horrible things happen to nice people and jerks sometimes land on their feet just fine! Obviously, this film is not one you'll want to show the kids due to these well as the sexual behavior. If you love Jennifer Anniston and dark humor (though this isn't exactly a comedy), then the film is clearly for you. Others might find it hard to really care about the film or the characters--making it an odd but skippable curio.
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A Deep and Dramatic Story About Frustration in Life With Touches of Black Humor
claudio_carvalho3 October 2003
Justine (the gorgeous Jennifer Aniston) is a thirty years old, frustrated and married woman, bored with her monotonous life. She works as a clerk in a supermarket, and none of her dreams has come through. She quit schooling just before going to the college, she got married very young, she got trapped in a small town in a job without any perspective and even her expectation of being mother is not being accomplished. Her husband Phil (John C. Reilly, an excellent and underrated actor) is a house painter, who gets stoned most of the vacant time, as a form of escaping his life, with his colleague and best friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson). Their entertainment is watching a noisy TV at night. One day, Justine meets her new colleague Holden Worther (Jack Gyllenhaal), a strange ex-addicted and drunken guy, who wants to be a writer. Justine feels a type of attraction for him, which grows to a crush, ending in an affair. The cuckold and naive Phil does not suspect of the situation. Then, the screenplay presents many plot points, alternating dramatic situations with a very black humor. This is indeed a deep movie, with very well developed characters. Basically all of them have a sort of frustration in life, like all of us, which is revealed along the story. The black humor is proportioned in doses to relieve the tension in many situations. Jennifer Aniston proves that she is an excellent actress, able to conduct and carry out a dense movie. Many persons just know her work as Rachel in `Friends', and just expect her to perform foolish roles. For them, I suggest for example, to watch `The Object of My Affection'. I am very suspicious to write about Jennifer Aniston, since I am a great fan of her, but she has a great performance in this film. Of course, the supporting actors and actresses and the direction are also superb. It is ridiculous the classification of comedy for such a movie. This type of classification certainly misleads the viewer and affects the evaluation. This is a movie that deserves to be watched more than once. My vote is nine.
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So-So Dramatic Vehicle for Aniston
evanston_dad5 December 2005
"The Good Girl" was heavily touted as the film that would help Jennifer Aniston break from her Rachel persona and make the leap to dramatic film actress. There was even talk (however brief) about an Academy Award nomination for her when this film came out. Surprise, surprise, but that didn't happen. And where has Aniston's film career been since? "The Good Girl" is leaps and bounds better than any of Aniston's other ventures into film--bland crap like "Picture Perfect" and that other movie whose name I can't even remember--but it's not a great movie in and of itself.

Aniston does a pretty good job, but you still can't escape the suspicion that she's just playing Jennifer Aniston, albeit a drabbed down version of herself. This movie's greatest asset is its supporting cast, particularly Zooey Deschanel in a very funny, dead pan role as a fellow worker at the Wal-Mart-esquire store Aniston's character works in, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who had begun his trek to stardom the year before in "Donnie Darko." The gods were being kind to Gyllenhaal in 2002, as he got to make out with both Aniston and Catherine Keener ("Lovely and Amazing") in the same year.

"The Good Girl" is certainly worth watching. It captures that nowheresville feeling of small-town America perfectly, the antithesis of every Frank Capra movie on the same subject. Instead of a cosy town where everyone knows your name, these towns are instead full of bored, restless people sitting around waiting for something, anything, to happen.

Grade: B-
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The movie is good. The girl? Not so much.
MBunge9 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
If you crossed The Catcher in the Rye and Madame Bovary and set the result in a small Texas town, it would be something like this film. It has all the angst and adolescent turmoil of the former and the emotional desolation and individual isolation of the former. Toss in the work of a fine cast and the star power of Jennifer Aniston and you've got yourself a funny, touching movie.

Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston) is a 30 year old woman who got married too soon and has found herself trapped in a boring job and to a pot-headed house painter. Stewing in her own misanthropy, Justine is only roused from her self-pity and self-destructive anger by a young man who gets a job at the Retail Rodeo where Justine works. The 22 year old (played by Jake Gyllenhall) calls himself Holden, after the J.D. Salinger character, and refers to the name his parents gave him as his "slave name". Those two things tell you pretty much everything there is to know about him. Justine begins an affair with Holden, if you can call sex in a motel after work an affair, and it seems to brighten up Justine's miserable existence. But Justine soon realizes that Holden, for all his overly-sensitive pretensions, is just an angry and unstable boy who has fixated on her as the answer to all his dreams. Then her husband's best friend uncovers her infidelity, touching off a chain of events that forces Justine to choose between the life she thinks she hates and another existence she can't even imagine.

I quite liked this film. It's smart and honest and has just a bit of snark, while acknowledging how immature such snark usually is. The Good Girl makes you think about personal unhappiness and the choices and attitudes that create it. The main characters of Justine and Holden are terribly discontented with their lives, yet as the story goes along it makes you understand that probably none of the characters are living the lives of their dreams. The difference is they aren't torturing themselves and everyone else over it. Most movies that focus on the quiet desperation of ordinary life either embrace too completely the idea that normal, unexceptional lives are awful things or they are too viciously judgmental of such common angst. The Good Girl takes a more mature and measured perspective. It validates Justine's unhappiness with the life she chose by marrying the first man she really loved but holds her accountable for not making the best of that life. Her actual problem isn't her circumstances. It's her own lack of ambition or imagination to do anything to improve them.

As the story unfolds, you can see that the other characters have found ways to deal with their individually unsatisfying lives. Justine's husband smokes pot to escape. The security guard at the Retail Rodeo has his religious faith. An older co-worker of Justine's has a stoic determination to make the best of things and a disdain for those who don't. A younger co-worker uses snide sarcasm to lash out at a world that doesn't meet her standards. But they all do something, while Justine and Holden just wallow in their anger and resentments.

Now, there's a subplot in the story involving the best friend of Justine's husband that's much more over-the-top and overtly self-aware than the rest of the movie. It explicitly details some of the themes that remain under the surface of the rest of the film and you might find it either bracing or off putting. I suppose it depends on your tolerance for a smart script hitting you over the head a few times to make sure you get its point.

Jennifer Aniston got a lot of praise when this movie first came out and it was deserved. She's able to convey the subtle nature of Justine's passivity so that you can empathize with the character, even when she's not all that sympathetic. Jake Gyllenhall is also very good with the dual nature of Holden. On the one hand you can see how Justine was attracted to him as a kindred spirit, but on the other hand Gyllenhall always keeps the stunted emotional side of Holden in view of both Justine and the audience. John C. Reilly as Justine's husband does some nice work as well. He takes a character that is supposed to be dumber and shallower than either Justine or Holden and makes him into a person and not a plot device.

There have been a lot of independent films made about the ordinary lives or ordinary people. Most of them suck because they're made by filmmakers who either hate such ordinary people or see their lives as nothing more than metaphors to be exploited. The Good Girl does none of that, which makes it a movie worth seeing.
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GarbageGod13 January 2003
This is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. I was literally laughing so loud when I saw this movie in the theatre that people were getting mad at me. The movie is also unbelievably sad, and if you dont like comedies with sad overtones, this is not the movie for you. This movie is so perfectly written. You care about Justine (Jennifer Aniston), and you can feel her deep rooted sadness for everyday life, and you can just hope that you don't get stuck in a situation like that when you go out on your own. watch this movie more than once, Oscar nods should be given to Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gellynhall, both of their performances are amazing.

(requiem for a dream)
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What good is a baby when the TV doesn't work?
richard_sleboe1 April 2008
Zooey Deschanel's in it! Talkking dirty over the supermarket PA! It's a small part, but loads of fun. I just can't get enough of her. Despite some funny streaks, the movie is mostly sad. Kind of like it's based on an Eva Cassidy song: "Maybe Bill and I someday will find a chance to get away". Jennifer Anniston is wonderful in the part of Justine, a small-town checkout girl married to a klutz. She is trying hard to come to terms with the unlived lives she has left behind, but at age 30, she just can't accept she'll be stuck at the Retail Rodeo for life. Says Justine, in a weary Texas drawl: "I saw in your eyes that you hate the world. I hate it too." Director Miguel Arteta uses very little off-screen music, carefully designed sets, washed-out colors, and lots of ill-fitting outfits to create a world so bleak it's hard to believe the characters manage even to get up in the morning. They lead the kind of life that makes them wonder what they would have missed had they never been born. I suppose the ending is happier than it could have been, but that doesn't say it's a happy ending. Watch out for the slightly creepy guest appearance by scriptwriter Mike White as Corny, the Bible Study guy. Fine performances even in the smaller roles, most notably perhaps by John C. Lynch, of "Fargo" fame, in the part of the store manager, and by Tim Blake Nelson, one of the original Soggy Bottom Boys, as Bubba the Loser.
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The Worst Movie Ever.
spacey411 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
omg though, this MARRIED women starts an affair with this disturbed, depressed guy who has gone his whole with with no one understanding him, but he thinks that this women "gets" him and his really happy, but after a while she starts to not like him anymore but he really loves her and refuses to live without her. so even though SHE started it during the movie she tries to kill him, send him to a mental hospital, she breaks his heart like 3 times, and then she sends the police after him even though shes having his baby which she has said is her husbands not his, in the end she lives happily ever after, and he kills himself. I hated this movie with a passion, it was awful, and sad, and what jokes were made weren't funny. I'm sorry that I watched it.
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Just brilliant!
noonoonomore30 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Wow!!!!! I'm shocked to see people calling "Cake" her only good and Oscar worthy performance.

This movie was beautiful. Jake Gyllenhaal was very good as well. I read "The Catcher in the Rye" before watching this movie in order to be able to absolutely feel it, for I am an Aniston fan and also read some good reviews about this movie; and man that was a good decision. Any of us would feel separated from the world and everyone close to us from time to time; I guess Justine was one of us. An ordinary person with an ordinary boredom of life, so when she met Holden, well he was right for that short time, before she got pregnant and felt kinda alright again like many of us do, when slight changes happen in our lives. Holden, on the other hand, I don't think he would have ever been happy even if she had left with him and eventually all that anger and loneliness would have burst out one way or the other.

Now Jennifer did a swell job here, and I know this movie came out when she was still doing Friends alongside loads and loads of romantic comedies, so it's even more underrated and especially when Renée Zellweger got so much attention for that not-so-bright comedy "Bridget Jones".

Approach this with cautious, this is Not a typical Aniston comedy. Heck it's not even a comedy, just pitch black.
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Candide Americain?
winstonfg29 April 2016
Perhaps not; but the message I took away from this movie was much the same as I got from Voltaire's book: - Life may not be great, but it's what we've got; so get on with it.

Of course it comes at it from a completely different perspective; and for a 21st century American audience, Holden Caulfield is probably more accessible than Leibnitz; but the theme is similar: Passion is overpublicised and has a "sell by" date; friendship and children are timeless.

Structurally, I thought the drabness was a bit overplayed and the action could have moved faster but, all in all, I enjoyed it; and I particularly enjoyed seeing Jennifer Aniston in a movie that allowed her to exercise some acting chops.

And the rest of the cast were uniformly good too, with particular kudos to John C. Reilly as JA's husband and John Carroll Lynch as the "store manager".

I suspect it was a flop because (a) its message was one nobody really wants to hear, and (b) JA wasn't her usual perky self.

But you know what? We all have to grow up sometime. Which is kind of what the movie's about...
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Better than I was expecting but I wouldn't label it a comedy
juneebuggy22 July 2015
Well this ended up being better than I was expecting as it wasn't the usual Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy (which all tend to blend together). Aniston is still another version of Rachael Green just more bored and depressed here. She does put on a great southern accent though, and outdoes herself in the wardrobe department, donning ugly sweaters and unflattering mom jeans throughout.

The movie is plugged as a comedy but honestly its fairly depressing, just kinda miserable and cheerless throughout following 'Justine' a frustrated 30 year old wife and grocery store cashier who is bored, depressed, stuck in a dead end job and married to a stoner (John C. Reilly). Her life changes when she begins an affair with a co-worker, (Jake Gyllenhaal). The story didn't at all go where I was expecting it to, entering some very dark areas.

Gyllenhaal does a great job here, he is young, intense and crazy. I also enjoyed John C. Reilly, as the husband, he's always the "nice guy" and is here too. Zooey Deschanel's character was very funny and probably the only ray of light in this. Lots of decent acting from sub characters though including John Carroll Lynch as the manager of the Retail Rodeo grocery store -which is where much of this movie takes place, the boredom and mundaneness was well represented there.

A bit of a surprise hit for me. 7/5/15
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Patronising, if occasionally effective, satire on small-town America
JamesHitchcock25 September 2006
One of the risks of starring in a highly successful TV series is that of becoming forever typecast in similar roles. An example was "Six Days, Seven Nights" in which David Schwimmer essentially played Ross from "Friends" under another name. In "The Good Girl", Schwimmer's co-star Jennifer Aniston appears to be trying to escape this trap by getting as far away as she can from her yuppie-chick Rachel character. She plays Justine, a thirty-something checkout clerk in a downmarket small-town supermarket. We learn that seven years earlier Justine had the opportunity to go to college, but turned it down for fear of losing her boyfriend Phil. This was a bad move. Phil, now Justine's husband, is a dull, boorish slob who, when not working as a painter, spends all his time with his good friend Bubba watching TV or getting stoned. (The name Bubba seems to be cinematic shorthand for "redneck poor white trash"). Phil and Bubba's one gesture in the direction of unconventionality is that their drug of choice is an illegal one (cannabis) rather than the more socially acceptable alcohol.

It is a stock Hollywood cliché that life is only worth living if one has the good fortune to live in a major city on America's East or West coast. The Middle American small town, even if it appears happy and tranquil at first sight, is generally portrayed as a pretty hellish place to live, and the Texas town where Justine lives does not even bother trying to hide its hellishness behind a façade of happiness and tranquillity. Yet, even though the main characteristic of life in the town seems to be a soul-destroying dullness, the only people who are seriously discontented with their lot are Justine and her workmate Holden Worther, a young man in his early twenties.

Holden's real name (or, as he puts it, his "slave name") is Tom, but he has renamed himself after the hero of "Catcher in the Rye". That should have been a clue to his real character, but Justine has presumably never read Salinger's novel and so misses this obvious danger signal. Holden is a geeky loner, obsessed with the idea that he is misunderstood by an uncaring society. He sees the equally malcontent Justine as a kindred spirit and the two embark on an affair. From Justine's point of view, this proves to be an even worse move than her marriage to Phil, as Holden is not only possessive but also mentally unbalanced. Worse still, their affair is discovered by Bubba, who has long cherished an unrequited lust for Justine and takes the opportunity to blackmail her into sleeping with him. Justine begins to wonder whether she might not be better off with Phil after all; he may be a slob, but he is, basically, a decent-hearted slob. He is one of the few major characters in this film who never does anything spiteful or mean-minded.

The film does not take its subject-matter altogether seriously, but for most of the time its overall tone is not so much one of humour- not even black humour- but what might best be described as ironical distancing. There are, however, some effective pieces of satire. Cheryl, another of Justine's colleagues, uses the supermarket's public address system to insult customers, generally without them noticing. A vegetarian health-food zealot dies of food poisoning after eating contaminated blackberries. A fire-and-brimstone Christian fundamentalist turns out to be a hypocrite and a creepy pervert. (Actually, that last one is probably not satire, just Hollywood's standard view of conservative Christianity).

Aniston is reasonably good as Justine, although I did not think her performance merited an Oscar nomination, as some have suggested. Most of the other actors turn in good performances, within the limits of the one-dimensional way in which most of the characters are written. The film's main drawback is that, like a number of satires aimed at small-town America, it tends to stereotype and patronise its subjects. It seems to be written from the standpoint that Holden and Justine are to be pitied because they are so miserable at having to live in such a godforsaken place and that all the other townspeople are to be pitied because they are so stupid that they do not realise how miserable they are. (It must be said, however, that "The Good Girl" is far from being the worst offender in this respect- that probably being the crude and ill-natured "Drop Dead Gorgeous"). It seems to be aiming to do for rural small towns what "American Beauty" did for suburbia, but lacks the spiritual insight or depth of meaning of the earlier film. 6/10
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The girl that wanted to please everyone
jotix10028 August 2002
Miguel Arteta is a very good director. He should be given credit for getting a good performance of the ensemble cast of this film.

Jennifer Aniston gets out of her "Friends" persona and proves that given the right vehicle she can deliver, as she does here. She's a good girl and wants to do good by the different men around her.

She's married to John C. Rilley, in a marriage that has gone sour. You wonder how this pair got together in the first place. Maybe Justine in her narrow vision saw him as her ticket for a better life. She's in a joyless job where boredom is the norm. Life in that part of the Bible Belt must be very dull since there is nothing else in the lives of these people the story depicts.

Her ticket to salvation is Holden, beautifully portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal. He's a rebel who doesn't know what he really wants until he meets Justine in the store where they both work. He brings into her life an excitement she's definitely missing from the life she leads with a boring husband. He strikes the right chords in her soul and she responds to him.

The rest of the cast, Tim Blake Nelson, Deborah Rush, Mike White and Zooey Deschand, are very effective.

In the end, Justine is just as happy to accept her fate and get into what is expected of a good girl to do.
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Jennifer Anistons brilliant performance.
zoe-louie_xo31 March 2009
I'm sure allot of people can empathise with this film, as I'm sure all of us have felt trapped and fed up with the way our lives are going at some point or another.

Jennifer Aniston plays Justine, and in my opinion gives a brilliant performance as we not only empathise but feel sorry for her as her Husband spends every night in front of the TV with his friend getting stoned. This made me understand why she started an affair with Holden - also wonderfully played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Holden comes off as a dark and disturbed character who is also fed up with the way his life is going, even though he comes off this way he is still a very likable character. All of the characters in this film seem to be frustrated and trapped in some way and that's where i think all of us can relate to the film in one way or another.

Its hard to tell whether the film is a drama or a comedy. The film is very deep giving the plot of the story yet there are a few touches of humour within the film.

One of Jennifer Aniston's best pieces of work and i recommend this film to a mature audience.
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Hard decisions... and blackberries
sol-24 January 2016
Mostly memorable for Jennifer Aniston's lead performance, 'The Good Girl' offers the Golden Globe actress perhaps her finest acting hour, cast here as an unhappily married store clerk who sees life passing her by. The promise of something new, exciting and different comes in the form of a much younger coworker who fancies her, but is there really a possible 'happily ever after' scenario for them? And does she really love him or simply what he represents with his championing of 'The Catcher in the Rye' and ramblings about defying social norms? Their affair eventually leads to a fork in the road in which Aniston is forced to make a choice and her decision, while perplexing at first, seems simply inevitable in retrospect. The film is well acted by not only Aniston, but also a stellar supporting cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Zooey Deschanel, 'Zodiac''s John Carroll Lynch, John C. Reilly and Tim Blake Nelson, and yet, the film does not quite have the same effect upon revision. The script relies heavily on elements of surprise for impact and none of the twists (other than Aniston's choice at end) have that much power once one knows they are coming. The philosophical voice over narration also seems to spell about a bit too much, especially concerning Nelson's character, upon revision. Aniston's internal strife resonates either way though, and her down-to-earth performance ensures that the film is engaging the whole through. 'The Good Girl' might not be a flawless film, however, if nothing else it will make you think twice before eating blackberries again!
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Good Girls Don't (... but Jennifer Aniston Does!)
wes-connors4 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Attractive thirtysomething Jennifer Aniston (as Justine Last) works in her Texas town's "Retail Rodeo" department store. Lumpy couch potato husband John C. Reilly (as Phil Last) is a house painter, pot smoker, and beer guzzler. Ms. Aniston is bored with her boring life. People don't "get her". That changes when handsome twentysomething Jake Gyllenhaal (as Tom "Holden" Worther) begins working at the "Retail Rodeo". Hunky Mr. Gyllenhaal dresses down, and shoots Aniston those moody, loner looks. He's reading "Catcher in the Rye", after dropping out of college (normally, you read "Catcher in the Rye" before college). Aniston and Gyllenhaal begin an affair, which leads to disastrous results...

Miguel Arteta's direction, and Aniston's focused performance, keep Mike White's story brisk. Aniston's life is definitely NOT boring, during the film's running time. Writer White also plays one of Aniston's co-workers at the "Retail Rodeo" - a dead-on, amazing characterization, as the "Bible study guy" security guard. The entire supporting cast is terrific. Keep your ears pricked for Zooey Deschanel (as Cheryl)'s pointed lines. Although, "The Good Girl" works, as a "comedy-drama", you may not care for where the story leads the characters...

The easiest alteration (without being too specific) would have been for Aniston to be shown yearning for a baby in some early scenes; this would give the film an "obvious" overall meaning, while retaining subtleties. I would have had Gyllenhaal and White suffer different consequences than those shown on screen; what happens to Deborah Rush (as Gwen Jackson) was enough, emotionally. The "Holden" conclusion could have been a fantasy. The "Corny" attack, coupled with a (forgivable) smack in the face (by "Phil"), portends a violent future for Aniston. So, the dramatic level of the story has "overkill".

******* The Good Girl (2002) Miguel Arteta ~ Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C. Reilly
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Good, But...
Pantalaimon6010723 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I found this movie to be very strange. I don't mean in the narrative, the style, or even the story in particular. I found the death of a certain character towards the beginning to be strange, although, to be fair, it does level out the death of another character towards the end. I also wonder whether to laugh at Holden/Tom's hysterics, or to be seriously disturbed by some of what he says. Confusion on how certain aspects of this movie are supposed to be taken, I found that I liked it. I loved the clever dialogue, coming mostly from Zooey Deschanel, although one of my favorite lines comes from the store's security guard: when wished a Happy Halloween, he says "I'm not a pagan." The acting is all good. I would have preferred more scenes with Deschanel. I would have liked to see some of the sadness shown in Justine and Holden to be hinted at in everyone else who worked at the store; not necessarily conscious unhappiness, but something simply buried within, something not yet realized. Still, what there is is mostly good. What keeps it from being great is some of the subject matter, whether you are supposed to laugh or be disturbed, and whether or not you actually can laugh after certain scenes. I recommend it. I just recommend that you should be aware of the rapid changes in tone and subject in the film.
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She's Not that "Good"...
nycritic21 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In one year alone, John C. Reilly played three cuckolded husbands. In CHICAGO he made the sad role of Amos Hart, the man who Roxie Hart famously cheated on and due to some unsavory incidents, became a celebrity. In THE HOURS, he was married to Laura Brown who was reading Virginia Woolf's groundbreaking novella "Mrs. Dalloway" and who discovered some secret things about herself, things his character, Dan Brown, was unaware of until Laura ran deserted him. And in this movie, THE GOOD GIRL, he found himself again on the receiving end, again caught in a predicament that became too messy for its own good.

Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston) is caught in a life she doesn't want, but to which she has acclimated herself to in the Texas town where she lives with her husband Phil (John C. Reilly). She works at a dead-end job in a WalMart-like department store and moves from day to day in a daze. She can't understand the sameness of her situation and why Phil would prefer to hang out with his tick of a friend, Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson), who is always there. The arrival of a new employee, Holden Worther, a kid who keeps to himself, however, changes her life in more ways than one. While initially hostile to each other, she and he strike up a friendship that soon becomes a lot more than that.

This is one of the many complications that ensue the story of the ironically titled THE GOOD GIRL, where Aniston's character is anything but. Initially, she is quite sympathetic in her grey character, but when she decides to leave her friend Gwen (Deborah Rush) to die in a hospital because she can't wait to enjoy a little more vapid time with Holden in a seedy motel, her own selfishness comes through. Of course, she does realize that there is little to no future in this affair she is having... but Holden, already an unhinged character, doesn't think so and he sets out to prove it to her. Her need to set things straight gets her in deeper and deeper waters, and at one point, she wonders if murder might be a solution.

THE GOOD GIRL is quite a surprise in that like Steven Soderbergh's BUBBLE, it takes a simple situation and has it slowly build up to a point where before anyone can guess where it's going, it's already careening out of control. Placing it in a "small town" setting enhances the scenario of tension and projected intimacy between its characters. Because in a small town everyone knows each other, there is the constant danger of disclosure, scorn and its aftermath. Justine knows what she's gotten herself into but can't act if not to protect her own marriage. What she becomes aware of is that people in a small town have a mentality where their acquaintance comes with hidden agendas and projected desires, and in no other character can this be better pegged onto like Bubba. As sleazy and dirty as he is, he summarizes his own vicarious enjoyment of seeing the Lasts crumble as a marriage that he has placed in this imagined pedestal: he's a friend (if you can call him that), but he also covets. He would want to be the one to have Justine and quietly seethes. Becoming aware of her whereabouts puts him in a heightened position of control, and he enacts all of his desires accordingly, blackmailing Justine while letting her know she can't ever tell Phil.

Jennifer Aniston is far from her Rachel character in "Friends" as Justine. Deglamorized, speaking in a weary monotone, frumpy, walking in a graceless shuffle, she is ennui personified. Jake Gylenhaal is the type of guy anyone with a little intelligence would run towards, and then from: he mixes his unnaturally beautiful looks and haunting green eyes with just the right dose of mental imbalance to create an especially intense character. John C. Reilly doesn't have much to do here, but he does has one strong scene that involves restrained violence. Zooey Deschanel has some pat but sharp scenes as a loopy co-worker with a penchant for loudness. All in all this is a quiet little movie that evolves in its own way and has several cards up its sleeve.
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