The Good Girl

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This article is about the 2002 American film. For the 2004 Spanish film of the same name, see The Good Girl (2004 film). For other uses, see Good Girl (disambiguation).
The Good Girl
Good girl poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Produced by Matthew Greenfield
Written by Mike White
Starring Jennifer Aniston
Jake Gyllenhaal
John C. Reilly
Tim Blake Nelson
Zooey Deschanel
Mike White
Music by Tony Maxwell
James O'Brien
Mark Orton
Joey Waronker
Cinematography Enrique Chediak
Edited by Jeff Betancourt
Myriad Pictures
Flan de Coco Films
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • August 7, 2002 (2002-08-07)
  • August 30, 2002 (2002-08-30)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million
Box office $16,856,124

The Good Girl is a 2002 comedy-drama film directed by Miguel Arteta from a script by Mike White, and stars Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly.


The film centers on Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston), a desperately unhappy thirty-year-old woman living in a small Texas town. Justine is employed at Retail Rodeo, the local big-box store, working long hours with some rather eccentric coworkers--Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel), a cynical teenager who inserts subliminal profanities into P.A. announcements; Gwen (Deborah Rush), a health conscious older woman who works with Justine in the cosmetics department; and Corny (Mike White), a highly religious security guard.

Justine is unhappy at home, too; she is married to Phil (John C. Reilly), a house painter who spends much of his time smoking marijuana with his best friend, Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson). Not only does she dislike Bubba, Justine also disapproves of Phil's drug use as she feels it is destroying his fertility and preventing her from becoming pregnant.

Justine soon meets Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), Retail Rodeo's newest cashier. Holden is rather standoffish, frequently reading J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Justine becomes enamored of Holden and the feeling is mutual. The two begin taking their lunch breaks together and Justine begins giving Holden rides home.

One day, Holden makes a pass at Justine. Justine rejects him, reminding him that she is married. Some time later, Holden does not show up to work, but sends a letter to Justine, writing that if she does not meet him at five p.m. that day behind the Chuck E. Cheese, she will never see him again.

Justine decides to accept Holden's invitation, only to be intercepted by her manager, Jack, who insists that she take a very ill Gwen to the hospital. Pressed for time, Justine hurriedly drops Gwen off at the emergency room. Justine then meets up with Holden. The two have sex for the first time in a motel room that Justine pays for with her credit card. The two begin meeting at the motel on a regular basis.

One night, Justine spies Bubba's truck in the parking lot of the motel. She becomes convinced that Bubba knows, telling Holden that they need to cool down for a while. Holden is upset about this but accepts Justine's decision.

When Justine goes to visit Gwen in the hospital, she discovers that Gwen has died after contracting parasites from eating blackberries that she bought at a roadside fruit stand. The next day at work, the manager, allows everyone to take the day off from work. Justine and Holden go to a lake and make love in her car.

Justine returns home and sees Bubba and Phil getting high and watching television. Bubba hints to Justine that he knows about her affair with Holden. On another occasion, Bubba tells an increasingly paranoid Justine to meet him at his house in order to talk.

Justine then takes Phil to a Bible study group held at Corny's church. Once they arrive, however, Justine sees the motel clerk going in. Panicking, she convinces Phil to leave with her.

Justine tries to avoid Holden the next day, telling him that she is unable to see him that day. After work, Justine meets with Bubba who tells her that he knows about her affair. He blackmails her into sleeping with him by threatening to tell Phil; he goes on to tell her that he has always been infatuated with her and that he has never married because he was unable to find someone like her.

Justine gives into Bubba's demands. Holden, who has been following her, sees them through a window. Justine rushes out of the house.

Some time later, Justine meets Phil at a clinic; she has arranged an appointment for Phil in order to check his sperm count. While there, Phil has a difficult time producing a sample, so he asks Justine to join him in the room. He then asks if he can grab her breasts. Justine allows this, telling him that her breasts are sore.

The next day, at work, Justine tells Cheryl that she felt sick all morning and that her breasts are very tender. Cheryl suggests that Justine may be pregnant.

Holden does not show up for work but is waiting in Justine's car when her shift ends. He drunkenly demands an apology. After calling Justine a "hooker", Holden begins to cry.

Justine now realizes that Holden is emotionally unstable and becomes desperate to extricate herself from the affair. She takes Holden on a drive. As she and Holden drive in the country, Justine passes the fruit stand where Gwen purchased her blackberries. Justine buys a few and convinces a still distraught Holden to eat a few. Having a change of heart, Justine makes Holden spit them out, then discards the rest.

Still trying to get away from Holden, Justine goes to talk to his parents. While there, she discovers that Holden's real name is Tom and that he has lied about or exaggerated many details of his family life. Justine then tells Holden's parents that he is mentally ill and has imagined a romantic liaison between them. She goes on to suggest that Holden be hospitalized.

That night, Justine takes a pregnancy test. The results are positive. An excited Phil wants to tell Bubba and make plans to celebrate but Justine says that it's too early to tell if she is really pregnant.

The next day, Justine arrives at work, and there are police everywhere. Cheryl tells Justine that someone stole fifteen thousand dollars from the safe and that the police suspect Holden.

Justine is called into Jack's office, and interrogated about her relationship with Holden. She claims they hardly know each other, but Corny says that he has cameras in the storage room and that he's seen Justine and Holden having sex back there. They ask Justine of Holden's whereabouts, but Justine honestly answers that she does not know.

As she leaves for lunch, Justine encounters Holden. He brags about having stolen the money and about his plans for them to escape. Justine says that she needs to go home first so Holden tells her to meet him the following morning at a hotel.

When Justine gets home, Phil, Bubba, and Bubba's new girlfriend are waiting for her, so they can go out and celebrate. The phone rings and Phil answers. He gets angry with whomever is on the other line, saying that Justine is pregnant. After he hangs up, he tells everyone else that his sperm tested negative.

The next morning, Justine packs and leaves. As she pulls to an intersection, she comes to an intersection. To her left is the Retail Rodeo, to the right is the hotel. After a moment of consideration, she heads to Retail Rodeo.

Justine then tells the police where Holden is. Jack tells her that she is a "good girl" and can have the day off. After arriving home, Justine watches a news report saying that the police have surrounded the hotel where Holden is staying. The anchor then announces that Holden killed himself with a gun before police could make entry into the room. Phil asks a very shocked Justine if she knew who Holden was and Justine says no.

The next day, Bubba shows up at Retail Rodeo and tells Justine that Phil opened a statement from the credit card company, which listed the motels that Justine paid for with the card. Bubba then begs Justine not to tell Phil about their sexual encounter.

When Justine arrives home, Phil asks Justine if she's having an affair. Justine answers yes, then Phil slaps her. He wonders if the baby is really his, and Justine insists that it is. He then asks who she had the affair with. Justine says it's not important since it's over. Phil asks if it was "the Bible study guy" and Justine says yes. Phil then apologizes for hitting Justine.

The next day, at work, Justine sees Corny, bruised with his arm in a sling. Cheryl says that two men jumped Corny after Bible study. As the film closes, we learn that Justine continues to work at the Retail Rodeo and stays with Phil, having Holden's baby.


Critical reception[edit]

The Good Girl was well received by most critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 81% of 156 critics gave the film a positive review, for an average rating of 7/10. The site's consensus states that "A dark dramedy with exceptional performances from Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal, The Good Girl is a moving and astute look at the passions of two troubled souls in a small town." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a "generally favorable" average score of 71, based on 35 reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars and also praised Aniston's performance, and saying The Good Girl is an "independent film of satiric fire and emotional turmoil".[1]

Aniston's performance[edit]

  • Elvis Mitchell : "It's Ms. Aniston who surprises in The Good Girl. In some ways she may feel as trapped as Justine by playing Rachel Green, the poor little rich daddy's girl of television's Friends. She comes up with an inventively morose physicality for Justine: her arms hang at her sides as though shackled; they're not limp appendages but weighed down with unhappiness. The plucky dream girls she's played in movies like the underseen 1999 classic Office Space are expressive and given to anxious displays of hand waving. But here she articulates Justine's sad tales through a narration that's as affected and misery laden as Holden's ragged, ripped-off fiction. This tone extends to her voice-over, which is sodden and exhausted, as if she is unable to rouse herself from the torpor within her head. Ms. Aniston provides a gentle, thoughtful performance, just as last season in Friends she gave Rachel a thorny, hard-won maturity and did her best work on the show; it's been a very good year for her." [2]
  • Steve Rhodes : " Jennifer Aniston delivers an incredible, amazing performance against type, as a severely depressed woman stuck in an unhappy marriage. Her bitterly sad character really got to me, so much so that I'd love to see Aniston receive an Oscar nomination for her performance." [3]
  • Geoffrey Kleinman : "There are two things which make The Good Girl work so well: the fantastic script by Mike White, which is smart, funny and honest, and the breakout performance by Jennifer Aniston who simply embodies her character. Whether or not you are a fan of Aniston, you'll appreciate a look at the real depth she has as an actress and I hope to see her in more films that challenge her as an actress." [4]
  • Ella Taylor : "QUEEN OF THE WORLD'S MOST CHIPPER SITUATION comedy, Jennifer Aniston doesn't immediately spring to mind as a resident of Raymond Carver country. Yet Aniston has played working-class heroines before, and rather well. As a put-upon young wife in Edward Burns' She's the One, she showed a sturdy, forthright incorruptibility that lit up an otherwise slight movie. Brad and her size-4 body notwithstanding, Aniston's glamour isn't sexual -- she's a Breck girl who can slip into ordinariness without the self-importance so many pretty actresses wheel out for the down-home, "plucky" roles that boost their résumés. It's impossible not to like Aniston, and equally impossible not to wish her likability would show a little wear and tear. Which makes it especially gratifying to see her play a woman who's had it up to here with making nice, and making do." [5]
  • Bill Muller : "Aniston rises to the level of the material, creating a character of remarkable breadth and depth." [6]
  • Roger Ebert : "After languishing in a series of overlooked movies that ranged from the entertaining ("Office Space") to the disposable ("Picture Perfect"), Jennifer Aniston has at last decisively broken with her "Friends" image in an independent film of satiric fire and emotional turmoil. It will no longer be possible to consider her in the same way. In "The Good Girl," she plays Justine, a desperately bored clerk at Retail Rodeo, a sub-Kmart where the customers are such sleepwalkers they don't even notice when the "Attention, Shoppers!" announcements are larded with insults and nonsense." [7]
  • James Berardinelli : "For Jennifer Aniston, this is clearly an attempt to escape the Friends typecasting. Her performance is forceful and effective - she effortlessly submerges herself into the role, and, after only a moment's hesitation, Aniston has vanished and all that's left is lonely, trapped Justine. " [8]


Award Category Recipient Result
Film Independent Spirit Awards Best Film The Good Girl Nominated
Best Screenplay Mike White Won
Best Female Lead Jennifer Aniston Nominated
Best Supporting Male John C. Reilly Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Best Actress Jennifer Aniston Nominated
Satellite Award Best Actress – Motion Picture Jennifer Aniston Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture John C. Reilly Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Liar Jennifer Aniston Nominated
Choice Movie Liplock Jennifer Aniston Nominated
Choice Movie Breakout Star – Male Jake Gyllenhaal Won
Choice Movie Actress – Drama/Action Adventure Jennifer Aniston Nominated


External links[edit]