This is the latest from the director Miguel Arteta and the Writer Mike White, who did CHUCK AND BUCK together. Mr. White also used to write for some tv shows, one supposedly really good and the rest called DAWSON’S CREEK and PASADENA. More recently he wrote the only okay ORANGE COUNTY and had a funny cameo in it. He has a small role here where he gets some laughs. He was the star of CHUCK AND BUCK and he’s a real goofball so when he appears in his movies you always want him to have a bigger part.
Before we move on I gotta ask, is this or is this not the same Mike White who does the zine Cashiers Du Cinemart that I used to always get spam for until dejanews shut down and I changed my e-mail? [UPDATE: I e-mailed the Cinemart Mike White, and he said he was not the GOOD GIRL Mike White.] If so that would also make him the same Mike White who makes the videos trying to point out which parts of Tarantino movies are similar to other people’s movies, which would make him kind of an ass. Somebody told me it was the same dude and I tried to verify it but the closest thing I could find for verification was that the Cinemart guy says he doesn’t have a new issue because he spent all of 2001 finding a new house, and then an interview with Miguel mentions that they auditioned Jake Gyllenhall in Mike White’s brand new house and he threw a chair and put a hole in the wall. That’s a pretty good clue I think but I don’t know if it would hold up in a court of law. I mean I wouldn’t want to besmirch Mike White’s name if there were two of them, like how there’s one George Miller who did MAD MAX and the other one who did the Steve Guttenberg movie where a dog rides on a dolphin’s back.
Anyway regardless of whether or not Mike White is an ass, this is a pretty good one and mostly due to his Writing. In this story Jennifer Aniston (the gal from OFFICE SPACE) is in a small town in Texas, working at a K-Mart like store called Retail Rodeo, married to John C. Reilly who is a housepainter, who comes home with Tim Blake Nelson, paint all over their pants, smokes pot and watches TV. Jennifer is real fuckin bored with this life, real depressed, and then she meets the new cashier, a teenager played by Jake Gyllenhall, the independent Tobey Maguire.
Jake’s character is named Holden, and when she meets him he’s reading ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ Now, I can understand if the ‘Catcher in the Rye’ reference makes you skeptical. Every fuckin movie that has a book in it has to have ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ Will Smith did some movie where he couldn’t stop talking about ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ In CONSPIRACY THEORY with Mel Gibson, all conspiracies revolve around the book. In PLEASANTVILLE, the first two books to appear in a magical sitcom world turn out to be ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’ so you see Tobey Maguire, the mainstream Jake Gyllenhall, talking about Holden Caulfield. Put ‘Catcher in the Rye’ in your movie and it’s supposed to prove you know how to read.
But as far as I know this is the first movie to use it sarcastically. Holden relates to the book because he feels Holden Caulfield is “put upon by society and hypocrisy” and he dreams of some day writing “Catcher in the Rye, but by me.” He shares two different stories of a depressed teenager that are the same except that he commits suicide differently in each. Jennifer lays in bed sleepless every night and it doesn’t seem like her days are any more exciting. So you can see why she ends up fuckin this kid. And he assumes since she likes him that she “gets” him. It’s real fuckin sad, actually.
There are alot of movies about being unsatisfied with life, and this is one of the ones that paints it real well. I mean she really doesn’t have much to say to her husband or her co-workers, her job doesn’t offer any excitement and she doesn’t really have any dreams, goals or hobbies. And her tv isn’t working. It made me think of 1999 Outlaw Award Winner for Best Fuckin Picture FIGHT CLUB – we were raised to think we would all be rock stars, but instead we’re selling nail polish at the Retail Rodeo.
And it’s a pretty subtle movie. It doesn’t over explain things or underline things (with the exception of one unneeded flashback to remind you who a character was). Let me give you an example. One of Jennifer’s co-workers dies from a virus that she may have gotten from food, and Jennifer assumes it was some blackberries she was eating at work – blackberries that were offered to Jennifer, but she turned them down. In a crappy movie, Jennifer would point out that if she had eaten one she would’ve died, and would then start rethinking her life. In THE GOOD GIRL the you know that’s what she’s thinking, but you’re glad she didn’t have to explain it to you.
Even better, the characters around Jennifer are all unsatisfied in the same way she is, but she never notices it, and they never try to point it out to her. In her and Holden’s minds, they’re the two misfits who just can’t be satisfied by this smalltown living. Her husband John C. Reilly is a doofus but he’s actually very kind, doing things to make her happy, which she doesn’t notice. And when he wishes that it would rain every day so he wouldn’t have to paint, she doesn’t notice that he has the same problem she has. There are alot of laughs in this movie, but most of them you laugh because you recognize these things from some lowpoint in your own life. And that’s not something that is easy to capture in a movie.
p.s. Also you see Tim Blake Nelson’s dick after he has sex with his dog in the room
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.