When Jennifer Anniston starts to get antsy, she, like all her "Friends" co-stars runs out and makes a movie. Why they all continue to do so is anyoneís guess, since with the exception of Mathew Perryís mildly tolerable When Fools Rush In and Annistonís minor role in Office Space, theyíve only succeeded in cluttering the film landscape with a forgotten array of musty movie garbage. However, with her starring role in The Good Girl Anniston may have actually broken the "Friends" curseÖ Iím just not certain she really had anything to do with the filmís success.
The Good Girl stars needy "Friends" sex kitten Jennifer Anniston as a middle-aged, small town Texas housewife. Pigeonholed in a dead-end job as a discount store desk clerk and stuck in what she perceives as a dead-end marriage, she only sees her world leading her towards what can only become a dead-end life. But her mundane existence only takes a turn for the worse when she strikes up an illicit affair with a young in-store stock boy who fancies himself the incarnation of Holden Caulfield.
The real question is whether or not itís possible to ďbuyĒ such glamour hog starlet as an extremely average, boring Texas girl when every pore of Annistonís being generally oozes something else. Itís a stretch. She does prove she still looks gorgeous even without makeupÖ which is mostly just depressing for the less than perfect among us. Still, she nails the redneck accent and goes out of her way to look plain. Itís enough, and it works. Being able to see her in this kind of plain-Jane role frees us up to pay attention to the point of the story, which is really much more interesting than Annistonís hair.
Writer Mike White (who also has a supporting role in the film) has gone out of his way to inject realism and feeling into his script. His characters are all people weíve met. His people feel the same things weíve all felt. The same longing, the same urgency. Annistonís character faces a crossroads, the kind we all face at some point in our lives. Because of that, itís impossible NOT to identify with what The Good Girl is trying to tell us, even when Annistonís character Justine diverges from the mundane and dives into the slightly bizarre.
Thereís no sympathy wasted on Justine. Sheís simply presented as she is. Director Miguel Arteta isnít trying to talk us into agreeing with her, merely into watching her and hoping that in spite of herself that maybe everything will turn out all right. By the filmís end, thatís really all Justine has left to hope for too, as hopes of exploring wildly forgotten dreams are revealed as little more than folly.
Jake Gyllenhaal, who shined so brightly in last yearís Richard Kelly mind bender, Donnie Darko is the catalyst for her trials. Yet I canít help thinking heís somehow underused here. Heís a central character, but often comes off more as a depressed set piece for Justine to interact with. By contrast, John C. Reilly as Phillip Last, Justineís husband, though his screen time could be more significant, literally steals the film away as a kind and sympathetic husband badly misunderstood by his clearly dissatisfied wife.
The Good Girl is not a life changing movie, nor do I think it really solidifies Anniston as a truly serious actress. What The Good Girl is, is a well written small town melodrama about the places we havenít been. Sometimes the little things are worth the price of admission.
Reviewed By: Joshua Tyler