The Good Girl

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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
Editing by Jeff Betancourt
Studio Myriad Pictures
Flan de Coco Films
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • August 7, 2002 (2002-08-07)
(Limited)
  • 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 black comedy film directed by Miguel Arteta from a script by Mike White, and stars Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly.

Plot[edit]

The film opens showing a dusty Texas town in the middle of nowhere, and tells the story of Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston), a thirty-year-old married woman who works at the local Retail Rodeo. Justine's life seems rather mundane. She works with an eccentric group of characters, including Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel), a cynical, young girl who inserts subliminal profanities to the sleepwalking customers; Gwen (Deborah Rush), the overly peppy, older woman who works with Justine in the cosmetics department; and Corny (Mike White), the Bible-obsessed security guard. Justine returns home every night to her dim-witted and seriously clueless husband Phil (John C. Reilly), a house painter who spends more time getting high on the couch with his buddy Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) than doing any work.

Justine feels trapped, and there seems like no sign of escape. Then, one day, a new, young cashier named Holden Worther (Jake Gyllenhaal) starts working at the Retail Rodeo and Justine is almost immediately taken by him. Holden keeps to himself mostly and always has his nose in a copy of "Catcher in the Rye," claiming that his own life parallels that of Holden Caulfield. Justine and Holden start spending a lot of time together, having lunch everyday and even hanging out after work. Holden always manages to get Justine to take him home, by pretending to have a twisted ankle, and, one day, Holden tries to make a move in the car, but Justine stops him, reminding him that she's a married woman.

One day, Holden does not show up to work, but sends a letter to Justine, telling her that if she does not meet him at 5 p.m. that day behind the Chuck E. Cheese, she will never see him again. Justine plans to go, but as the day ticks by, Gwen gets sick off of some blackberries she was eating throughout the work day. Gwen starts vomiting, and Jack, the manager (John Carroll Lynch), tells Justine to drive Gwen to the hospital. Justine asks Jack what time it is, Jack looks at his watch, and says that it's a quarter to five.

Justine speeds the ill-stricken Gwen to the hospital, and drops her off at the entrance, then rushes to the Chuck E. Cheese. She looks around, and sees that no one is there. She missed Holden. Then suddenly, he pops up next to her car, scaring her. Holden says that he's glad she came, and that he wants to take her to a motel. They go to a motel, which Justine pays for with her credit card. There, in the motel, Justine and Holden have sex, and Justine begins to feel more alive that she's been in a long time.

Justine and Holden continue to have the affair, without anyone, especially Phil, having a clue. Then, one night, as the two are leaving the motel, Justine sees Bubba's truck in the parking lot. She grabs Holden and quickly makes it out of the motel. Justine is now very paranoid, and thinks that Bubba knows. She tells Holden that they need to cool down for a while, which Holden is upset about but accepts. When Justine goes to visit Gwen in the hospital later that night, Corny walks out, with a sad look on his face. He tells Justine that Gwen died, that the blackberries she was eating had parasites in them. Justine is very upset by this. The next day at work, Jack, the manager, makes the announcement that Gwen died the night before, and says that any of the employees who feel like they need some time to themselves, they can take the day off. Naturally, everyone leaves, and the Retail Rodeo is closed that day.

Justine and Holden go to a lake on their day off, where Holden wants to skinny-dip and have sex with Justine, but Justine is still a little shaken by Gwen's death. The two do, however, make love in her car, after it begins to rain. Justine returns home, and sees Bubba and Phil getting high and watching television as normal. Phil seems completely oblivious, while Bubba has a look as if he knows. He tells Justine that it's a shame that Gwen died, and says to Justine that at least she was by Gwen's side when she passed, stating this with ominous implications. On another occasion when Gwen returns home, Phil gets up to go to the bathroom, and while Justine and Bubba are alone, Bubba tells her to meet him tomorrow at his house, because they need to talk.

That evening, Justine and Phil go to the bible study at Justine's suggestion; but when they arrive, Justine sees the motel clerk going in and immediately aborts the operation, claiming she changed her mind due to their forgetting their bibles.

The next day, Justine is extremely worried, and tries to brush off Holden, but he keeps persisting, saying that he'll go crazy if she doesn't see him that day. Justine promises to see him the next day, because she has to go see somebody later. After work, Justine goes over to Bubba's house, where he explains that he saw Justine with Holden going to a motel, and he followed, and listened by the door of the room, and he heard Justine's moans of passion. But Bubba is a little reluctant to tell Phil about it because he explains that he never found a wife because he felt that he could never find someone as "perfect" as Justine and that he even admired Phil. However, Bubba does blackmail Justine, threatening to tell Phil unless she sleeps with him. Against her better judgment, Justine does have sex with Bubba, although you can tell by her face she is not even remotely interested. After Bubba finishes, Justine pushes him off of her, and looks out the window, only to see Holden watching from outside. Justine is shocked to see this, and rushes out of the house.

During all of this, there is some speculation about Phil's ability to impregnate Justine. She was upset with him earlier in the film about it, because he smokes so much pot, so she schedules an appointment to have his sperm tested. She meets Phil at the clinic with Bubba, and after Phil leaves to give a "sample," Bubba asks Justine how he measured up as a lover. This is interrupted by a nurse telling Justine that Phil requests her presence. Phil is having trouble getting going, so he asks Justine if he can grab her breasts. She lets him, but says that they 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 to work the next day, but is waiting in Justine's car when she gets off work. He is drunk, and tells her that he will be drunk everyday until she apologizes. He calls her a "hooker"," then begins to cry. Justine now realizes that Holden is very screwed-up and is not the escape that she wanted. She also realizes that she needs to get rid of a few problems. As she and Holden drive in the country, Justine passes by a withered, dirty old man selling blackberries on the side of the road. Justine buys a few, and gives them to Holden. Holden eats about five, before Justine realizes what she's doing, and throws the remaining blackberries out of the car.

Holden returns to work, while Justine continues to plot to somehow get him out of her life. She goes to talk to his parents and tells them that he is mentally ill and has imagined a romantic liaison between them that does not exist, and that she thinks he needs to be institutionalized.

That night, Justine takes a pregnancy test, but is interrupted by Phil. He demands to be there when the results come out. The test turns out to be positive, and Phil is overly excited. He wants to call Bubba and celebrate the next day, 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 cops everywhere. Cheryl says that something big happened last night, and goes to see what it was. When she returns to the cosmetics counter, she tells Justine that someone opened the safe with a gun and stole $15,000. Justine asks who would do such a thing, and Cheryl says that the cops know for a fact it was Holden. After a while, Justine is called into Jack's office, and interrogated by the cops and Corny 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 next ask Justine of Holden's whereabouts, but Justine honestly answers that she does not know. As she leaves for lunch, Holden, incognito and looking very proud, tells Justine about the money, and about his plans for them to escape. Justine says that she needs to go home and grab some things, so Holden tells her to meet him the following morning at a hotel. He will be there until noon.

When Justine gets home, Phil, Bubba, and Bubba's new girlfriend, Floberta, are waiting for her, so they can go out and celebrate. The phone then 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. Phil says there's no way he's shooting blanks, since Justine is expecting. Everyone but Phil figures it out.

Justine packs, then gets in her car. As she pulls to an intersection, she comes to a crossroads. To her left is the Retail Rodeo, to the right is the hotel. She contemplates which possible future to choose. She chooses the Retail Rodeo. Justine marches into Jack's office and tells Corny and the cops of Holden's whereabouts and how long he plans to stay there. Jack tells her that she did the right thing, that she is a "good girl" and can have the day off. A little later, the television is on as Justine, Bubba, and Phil watch, and there's a news report saying that the cops surrounded a hotel where a Retail Rodeo clerk suspected of stealing ten grand was staying. The anchor announces that the clerk, identified as Tom Worther (Holden was his adopted name), killed himself with a gun before police could make entry into the room. Justine is shocked beyond belief about this. Phil asks if she knows who the kid was, and Justine says no.

The next day, Jack announces Holden's death to the Retail Rodeo employees, only this time, he does not let anyone leave, since Holden was a liar and a thief. Bubba shows up at the store and tells Justine that he was at their house and Phil opened a statement from the credit card company, which listed the motels that Justine paid for with the card. Bubba, knowing he has lost his leverage, begs Justine not to tell Phil about the two of them, since Phil is his best friend. When Justine arrives home, Phil is obviously very upset. He 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 still 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 (Corny), and Justine, just to ease his wandering mind, answers yes. Phil apologizes for hitting Justine.

The next day, at work, Justine uses the cosmetics to cover up her swollen face, and sees Corny walk by, bruised with his arm in a sling. Cheryl says that two men jumped Corny last night after Bible study. As the film closes, we learn that Justine continues to work at the Retail Rodeo and she stays with Phil, but she does have Holden's baby, raising it with Phil, who is none the wiser.

Cast[edit]

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]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2003 Independent Spirit Awards 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 Supporting Actor – Motion Picture John C. Reilly Nominated
Best Actress – Motion Picture Jennifer Aniston Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Liplock Jennifer Aniston Nominated
Choice Movie Liar Jennifer Aniston Nominated
Choice Movie Actress - Drama/Action Adventure Jennifer Aniston Won
Choice Movie Breakout Star – Male Jake Gyllenhaal Nominated

References[edit]

External links[edit]