In Good Company
directed by Paul Weitz
(Universal, 2004)

For the first three-quarters of In Good Company, writer/director Paul Weitz is at the helm of an observant little movie about getting shaken out of your comfort zone, about deciding whether to hold to your convictions or give in.

And then Hollywood -- or at least a Hollywood ending -- takes over.

It nearly wastes an effortless turn by Dennis Quaid as Dan Foreman, an advertising salesman whose Big Media Company is taken over by bigshot Teddy K. Dan's job, in turn, is taken over by wet-behind-the-ears Carter Duryea, a Teddy K acolyte whose main job is to cut the bottom line, not raise the performance bar.

Squeezed out at work and gripped by all the myriad concerns that can keep you up at night at home (Is his daughter Alex pregnant? And what's up with his wife?), Dan's struggling to believe he's not obsolete, that experience and a lifetime of trying to do the right thing are some sort of guarantee that you're not going to get left in the dust.

Carter (Topher Grace), meanwhile, meets Alex when he comes over for a family dinner and feels an emotional pull. At least he has enough sense to realize Dan may not be thrilled to lose both his job and his daughter to the same guy.

The secretive and relatively innocent relationship that blooms, then, becomes as much about Carter trying to find his way in a corporate culture he's increasingly uncomfortable with as it is about Alex blossoming in the new fascinations she finds living at college.

As Alex, Scarlett Johansson isn't as magnetic as her turns in Lost in Translation or Girl With a Pearl Earring, and her unflashy performance, while right for the role, is as a girl whose personality is still forming.

Quaid, meanwhile, turns in equally unflashy work, but it's for a more formed -- and interesting -- character. His disillusionments are real, and they're earned, just like he's earned the loyalty of his clients, the admiration of his daughter and the family life Carter envies.

Grace, who took over the part of Carter when his That '70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher dropped out, is, surprisingly, Quaid's equal. Together, they stumble and build a relationship that's at the core of In Good Company, lovely though the love story may be. Because, ultimately, until it feels the need to tie up all the loose ends and make everyone happy, In Good Company is a different kind of love story.

review by
Jen Kopf

12 May 2007

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