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[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[1]
Box office $16.9 million[1]

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), an unhappy thirty-year-old woman living in a small Texas town. Justine is employed at Retail Rodeo, the local big-box store, working with Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel), a cynical teenager who inserts subliminal profanities into P.A. announcements; Gwen (Deborah Rush), an older woman who works with Justine in the cosmetics department; and Corny (Mike White), a highly religious security guard.

Justine 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).

Justine soon meets Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), Retail Rodeo's newest cashier. 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. 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. 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.

One night, Justine spots 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 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.

When Justine returns home, Bubba hints to Justine that he knows about her affair with Holden. Bubba tells Justine to meet him at his house. After work, Justine meets Bubba who blackmails her into sleeping with him by threatening to tell Phil about her affair. Justine gives into Bubba's demands. Holden, who has been following her, sees them through a window.

Holden does not show up for work but is waiting in Justine's car when her shift ends. He drunkenly demands an apology. Justine becomes desperate to extricate herself from the affair. Justine goes to talk to his parents. Justine tells them 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.

The next day, when Justine arrives at work Cheryl tells her 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.

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

When Justine gets home, Phil, Bubba, and his new girlfriend are waiting for her, so they can celebrate. The phone rings and Phil answers. After he hangs up, he tells everyone else that his sperm tested negative.

The next morning Justine tells the police where Holden is. After arriving home, Justine watches a news report saying that the police have surrounded the hotel where Holden is staying and that Holden killed himself.

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. She answers yes. He wonders if the baby is really his, and Justine insists that it is. He then asks who she had the affair with. Phil asks if it was "the Bible study guy" and Justine says yes.

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 6.9/10. 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."[2]

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.[3]

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".[4]

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." [5]
  • 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." [6]
  • 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." [7]
  • 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." [8]
  • Bill Muller : "Aniston rises to the level of the material, creating a character of remarkable breadth and depth." [9]
  • 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." [10]
  • 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. " [11]


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]