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The Good Girl (2002)

Directed by Miguel Arteta Written by Mike White

Having imagined a better life for herself by the age of 30, Justine (Jennifer Aniston) didn’t have much to do while working at the Retail Rodeo other than contemplate her life, wondering if those around her felt the same. Working in the cosmetics department, she inquired as to who the new cashier was, though not getting a lot of details in return. Going home to an otherwise typical night in her household; husband Phil (John C. Riley) and best friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) getting stoned while sitting on the couch watching television, unaware of the mess making in the process.

Finding herself distracted at work the next day as she introduces herself to Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was not only ‘easy on the eyes,’ but seemed to share the same hatred for people as Justine was starting to focus more on. Customers, her husband, and overly thrilled about life co-worker Gwen (Deborah Rush) becoming all to much to handle; needing a pair of unbiased ears more than anything. Offering a ride home with a quick introduction to his parents (because that’s not awkward) as the next couple of days are spent getting to know the mysterious 22 year old a bit better.

Reading perhaps, a little too into the events going on around her as thoughts of wanting to take their friendship to the next level surface. Confiding in Holden, who while clearly given a ‘go,’ is denied, responding with a threatening letter to quit unless admitting how badly she wanted him in return. Forced to rush Gwen to the Emergency room upon getting sick and throwing up due to the berries bought on the side of the road earlier that day. Asking for Justine to stay and comfort her, yet leaving to secure infidelity within the confines of a local motel room. Needing something, anything, to make her life seem more interesting, rather liking the secret she had now obtained. Though unable to sustain such when discovering Bubba’s truck outside the room one unfaithful night. Put on pins and needles until confessing of knowing her actual whereabouts those nights and having only one feasible option that would solve everything. She would have to sleep with Bubba too, or make Phil aware of everything he had bared witness to. Far too deep in the lie to give up now, we see Justine regrettably committing another act of adultery, a motionless mechanism the entire time.

The downpour of bad news also conveying unfortunate news of Gwen’s sudden death, her discovery of possible pregnancy and Phil’s inability to reproduce a child falling over her plate. Failing to comprehend the situation, Holden signs a letter in blood of his devotion and desire to be with only Justine. Eventually stealing from the retail store and holding up within the same motel already familiar with. Unable to see nor want anything else at that point other than to be with her. Bubba begging to not be told on, loving his best friend too much to have him know what went on. Forced to remain the good girl as always had and letting the authorities know of Holden’s whereabouts, keeping her and Bubba’s dirty little secret and swearing to God and Phil that it was his baby. Considering how mindless he had been, he believes her or rather, doesn’t want to accept the alternative. Much in the same Justine had little options left at that point. She had failed to go to College in fear she would lose Phil, having already put up with his antics for the past seven years. Successful taking care of her itch and happy to settle back into the role having accustomed herself to at that point. She and Phil would raise the baby together, finding them no better at the end of their tale than when started out and content with living in her lie, for now.

While covert affairs are certainly no laughing matter, it wouldn’t surprise me if this type of deceit was more common than thought. It seems far too easy to be satisfactorily living within another’s means and not fair to either party involved in the marriage. So why stay? Why knowingly be miserable in a life you know could only be better. Because people fear change? What they fear is being alone. Knowing that while it could in fact be better, it could just the same be worse. Almost certain that if the main character was a male and Holden the female, he would have ended up leaving the wife to be with the mistress. So what does it say for the story itself? Though I didn’t mind the film leaving off in the seemingly random place at the end, it felt as though it was missing a whole other part to these characters stories we would never be able to see. Or perhaps I kept thinking of too many possibilities the story could have evolved from that it was upsetting to see the approach they ended up taking. Especially since a re-shoot; knowing where they were coming from but this particular storyline was left with too much too fill in for ourselves that it ended up taking away rather than gaining to the intrigue.

However an interesting find coming from writer Mike White, who also played Corny, the Jesus lovin’ security guard at the outlet store. He had a fantastic delivery in his awkwardness and sincerity with even the slightest facial expressions or gestures making for humorous moments with the rest of the cast. John C. Reily and Tim Blake Nelson were a surprising duo. Nelson being almost eerie once finding out the information concerning Justine and way of letting her know. As though almost waiting for a moment like this for the longest time, happy to finally have what he thought he could never have. A pretty quiet role for Reilly who doesn’t become as involved in the story as when word of her pregnancy didn’t pair with the Doctor’s news of in fact not being able to have children.Though undoubtedly, Jake Gyllenhaal as the socially awkward disordered boy, was what stole the show, best described as a Monet; beautiful from a distance, but just as fucked up as you once you got a view from up close. His innocence in the role was undeniable as was the ability to feel sympathy for him, knowing he never held a chance with how easily obtaining the obsession he held for Justine.

Pairing wonderfully against Aniston who came out with her best role to date. And we were not comparing against her newly found comedic roles or the decades spent playing a cute, frazzled girl who had the bestest of friends. But able to let go of that façade and shell out something most fans wouldn’t expect from her, excelling in every direction taken within the script. Though equally enjoying the slight twangs both she and Gyllenhaal had. Rounding out the cast of misfits with Zooey Deschanel playing Cheryl. An easy favorite from the bunch who initially started out as the intercom speaker for the store, moving her way up to cosmetics once Justine wasn’t able to run the department by herself. The makeovers dishing out being as hilarious as her “I could care less” efforts put into work each day. Something certainly not for everyone but worth the watch if willing to overlook the clueless manner in which we find our main characters at the end.