January 19, 2005

Amateur Movie Review: In Good Company

For those unaware, this is the latest movie from Paul Weitz, the director of American Pie (the funny first one, not the increasingly awful sequels) and the delightful About a Boy. This stars Dennis Quaid as 51-year old Dan Foreman, the longtime head of advertising sales at the obviously SI-inspired Sports America. In the span of a day, Dan finds his life pitched upside down, as he faces a demotion at work, his 40-something wife is unexpectedly pregnant, and his eldest daughter Alex has decided to transfer to NYU and live in the city.

Dan’s new boss is Carter Duryea, 25 years younger and obsessed with the current corporate mantra of “synergy”. Carter, played by Topher Grace, is obviously talented but socially inept, and known primarily for his aggressive campaign to increase cell-phone use amongst toddlers. Carter is facing troubles as well; wrecking his trophy 911 as he exits the lot, and finding his wife is leaving him. He latches on to Dan as mentor and “wingman”. Dan acquiesces, more due to his troublesome home issues than any desire to work for this neophyte. From there the movie tracks the relationship between Dan and Carter, with the unexpected and secretive romance between Carter and Alex (a radiant Scarlet Johansson), and the continued problems at the magazine.

This movie really worked for me, on all its levels. The three leads are excellent. Grace, while initially purposefully lightweight, adds a depth to Carter as he is forced to fire longtime employees. The chemistry between he and Johansson is very natural, and she does a fine job portraying the college girl away from home for the first time. The dorm-room seduction scene is worth the price of a ticket alone. In Good Company also features a terrific supporting cast led by David Paymer as an aging salesman terrified of the firing line, Marge Helgenberger as Dan’s wife, and Malcolm McDowell’s turn as the comically malevolent Teddy Kay.

The movie belongs to Quaid though. He brings real feeling to the amiably jockish Dan. The emotional highlight of this movie is comes when Dan realizes that Alex and Carter are seeing each other. As he storms out of the restaurant, he cannot help but remind Alex they always promised to be honest with each other. Alex responds that she made that promise when she was five. Dan snaps back that he “liked you better when you were five.” The effect is instantaneous. Johansson looks stricken, Dan equally so. Neither can say anything. It is a perfect moment.

The movie is not perfect though. It is a little long, and drags at points. It also seems dated sometimes, as if it is a Michael J. Fox vehicle from 1987. The characters might be a little too nice at times. Even Carter, the shallow and supposedly heartless corporate-shark-in-training is eminently likable, and compulsively reveals his true feelings to Alex. The movie wraps a little too easily, and one has to wonder what this movie would have been with a director with more of a mean streak, like a Neil LaBute or Alexander Payne. Still, In Good Company is likable, funny and enjoyable, a movie well worth seeing.

Posted by Frinklin at January 19, 2005 06:50 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?