In Good Company
paper, it sounds like a pure Hollywood formula comedy. Middle-aged
family guy suddenly has to handle being demoted in his job and deal with a
new boss half his age. To add to the indignity, the new kid on the
corporate block who is making his life a misadventure starts dating the
man's college-aged daughter.
Luckily the movies don't live on paper, because what could seem like a
formulaic screenwriting exercise turns out to be one of the best comedies in
of the credit for this has to go to writer/director Paul Weitz, who is
becoming a pretty impressive comic force. With brother Chris he
created American Pie, which was a superior teen sex farce, although
people sometimes forget that because it has been dogged by two poor sequels.
In 2002, Weitz was deservedly nominated for a best screenplay Oscar for his
adaptation of Nick Hornby's About A Boy.
In Good Company continues his winning streak. It is a film that is
naturally funny and yet sometimes surprisingly dramatic. It is a
wicked satire of the jungle mentality of the corporate world, but it also
has interesting things to say about the generation gap.
Even an ending which feels just slightly
overly poked and prodded by focus-groups can't ruin the good feelings the
Sports America, the
top athletic mag in the country. He's an old-school salesman, he
recognizes that relationships and having a good product will bring the
clients. More importantly, he also knows the importance of leaving his
job at the office. When he punches out, he returns to his beautiful
Connecticut home and enjoys what is really most important to him; his wife (Marg
Helgenberger) and two daughters (Scarlett Johansson and Zena Grey.) Dennis Quaid plays Dan Foreman, the
downsized exec. Dan runs the advertising at
Things change for him quickly when the
magazine is sold to a huge conglomerate run by a Rupert Murdoch-esque
tycoon, played by an uncredited Malcolm McDowell in a funny cameo. In
the eyes of the new corporation, Dan is a dinosaur. They are much more
interested in a slash-and-burn, survival-of-the-fittest type of workplace.
Any employee who doesn't meet their inflated expectations is shown the door.
The corporation gives his position to Carter Duryea
(Topher Grace of That 70s Show), an up-and-comer who has never worked
in ad sales, but opened eyes as a moneymaker by coming up with the idea of
dinosaur-shaped cell phones to target the preschool market. Cell
phones, magazine advertising, what's the difference? Carter recognizes
that he is in over his head, though, and despite pressure from upstairs, he
decides to keep Dan on as his "wingman."
Carter's business life may be going well,
but his personal life is falling apart. His wife of seven months
(Selma Blair) leaves him. He tells a complete stranger in the elevator
that he is scared shitless, and it turns out to be Dan's older daughter
Alex. When he decides on a new power job indulgence, a brand new
Porsche convertible, he wrecks the sports car on the way out of the
dealership. His only life is in the office. He tries to make
friends of his new co-workers, but with each of them fearing for their jobs,
no one is overly forthcoming. Carter thinks nothing about asking his
employees to come into work on Sunday, because if he has nothing better to
do, he assumes that they wouldn't either. Even his only pet, a
goldfish, won't pay attention to him.
wants to quit, however he has just found out that he is about to become a
father again at 51. Also, daughter Alex has decided to transfer
colleges from SUNY to the much more expensive NYU. Dan has to take a
second mortgage on the house. He realizes that he has to keep his job
if he wants to take care of his family. So he tries to smile and
swallow the indignities of his position and watches as his employees... his
friends... lose their jobs one by one.
his loneliness, Carter weasels a dinner invite to Dan's home. He
envies Dan's life, and he also finds himself drawn to Dan's daughter.
The two of them start a clandestine relationship based mostly on their
mutual neuroses. Alex has always felt like a bit of an outcast, does
not realize that she is attractive and seems very confused by what she wants
Johansson is terrific as Alex, as always, in a bit of a supporting role.
Still, she is able to tap on the complexities and insecurities of the
character. Grace is also very charming in the role of Carter -- a
basically good man who finds himself acting badly because of his situation.
However, as good as they are, the film is anchored by the craggy presence of
Quaid. In Good Company is a reminder that when he gets a good
script, Quaid is as good as it gets. (Even in bad scripts like Cold
Creek Manor and The Day After Tomorrow he always rises above the
In a time when so many films are so deadly
serious, it is kind of nice to
find a film that can make you laugh as
well as think. Bonus points given for not having a single toilet gag.
Right about now, we need more movies like In Good Company.
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Posted: January 21, 2005.