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The Good Girl film review

THE GOOD GIRL
15certificate_15

THE GOOD GIRL


Running time: 93 mins
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tim Blake Nelson, Zooey Deschanel, John C Reilly, John Doe, Roxanne Hart
Tiscali Rating of 07Tiscali Rating of 07

Picture the scene. March 23, 2003 - The 75th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. "And the nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role are: Jennifer Aniston for The Good Girl,..." It sounds like a far-fetched plotline for Aniston's hit sitcom Friends, but Miguel Arteta's sly and unsettling comedy of romantic errors may just be the film to establish Mrs Brad Pitt as a serious performer.

The Good Girl is the first film to really test Aniston's acting mettle and she delivers in some style, casting off the quirky mannerisms of her Central Perk alter-ego to get under the skin of a woman has lost her way and her self-belief. The startling transformation has already earned Aniston nominations as Best Actress from the Independent Spirit and Golden Satellite awards.

Justine (Aniston) has just turned 30 and is still working at the Retail Rodeo store on the cosmetics counter with sardonic colleague Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel). Her husband, Phil (John C Reilly), doesn't appreciate her, and seems more interested in getting drunk and getting high night after night with business partner Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson), co-owner of their small-scale painting and decorating business.

A glimmer of hope arrives in the form of handsome yet deeply troubled 22-year-old employee Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal). Like Justine, his home life is deeply dysfunctional - his parents (John Doe, Roxanne Hart) barely acknowledge his existence - and inevitably, the two lost souls gravitate towards on another.

The pair embark on a tempestuous affair, which offers Justine the sexual fulfillment and physical closeness she so desperately craves. They steal moments together whenever they can - during lunch break, in the work storeroom - and sneak out to local motels to consummate their passion. Unfortunately, Bubba stumbles upon the illicit lovers during one of their secret trysts and Justine soon finds herself trapped in a web of lies, deceit and blackmail.

Writer Mike White crafts a powerful and moving tale of small town angst, laced with jet black humour. His characters are eccentric yet utterly believable, blind to the terrible consequences of their actions.

Gyllenhaal confirms his standing as one of the finest actors of his generation with a twisted and eccentric performance which still elicits huge sympathy, even as his character careers towards self-destruction. Reilly's cuckolded husband is beautifully played, and Deschanel offers much needed comic relief as a feisty teen who delights in verbally abusing the customers. "This is a hand lotion," she quips deadpan to one hapless housewife, "so don't put it on any other part of your body, even if that part needs lubrication. We try to keep frivolous lawsuits to a minimum, unless, of course, the customer is at fault."

Aniston has played safe in all of her previous film roles, portraying slight variations on her Friends persona in fluffy romantic comedies. Audiences have reacted warmly. With The Good Girl she takes a huge gamble and it pays off handsomely.


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Jake Gyllenhaal

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