The Good Girl

(Movie Review)


                                  by C. J. Kurkowski                               


Jennifer Aniston gives a stunning Oscar quality performance in her new movie The Good Girl.

Indie Director, Miguel Arteta (gay cult classics: Star Maps and Chuck & Buck) paints a dark comedic picture of lost souls in rural Texas and shows us what life can really be like in small town America.


Justine (Jennifer Aniston) is a Retail Rodeo cosmetic counter woman who dreams day after day of escaping to another life as she slaps make-up on blue hair old ladies. Every night she goes home to her second boring life that consists of microwave dinners in front of the television and hanging out with her stoked out house painter husband Phil (John C. Reilly) and his overtly submissive pal, Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson). Justine lays in bed every night next to her husband gazing out the window watching the leaves blow around until one day the wind changes direction and her stoned out husband mentions “looks like we’re in for a change…”


When Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps into her life, Justine gets more drama then she bargains for. Holden is a manic-depressive twenty-something year old that looks at Justine in a worldly way. Holden self-names himself after the fictional character in his favorite book, The Catcher in the Rye, because he can relate to the alienation, alcoholism, and can articulate the same feelings for women as Holden Caufield did in the book.


The infatuation between one another starts off so innocently, Justine drives Holden home every evening, they have lunch together everyday, and Justine reads his suicidal short stories of a spurned lover who always dies in the end as he dreamily gazes into her eyes. Then one night Holden makes his move on Justine, but she stops him short and says, “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” You can see the expression in Justine’s eyes as she explores the possibility of an extra-marital affair. You can see the yearning she has for Holden but she is afraid to act because of Phil.


Then one day something snaps in Justine’s mind. It was time to move forward with this infatuation between her and Holden. Audiences can watch the progression of what drove Justine to this point.  The crappy reception on her television, Phil not able to give her the baby she wanted, and plus she was tired of being the good girl, the dedicated wife, who stood by her husband through thick and thin. Simple things in life for you and me but very complicated in the small town mentality scheme of things.


The next day Holden who is also tired of the courtship between him and Justine, gives her an ultimatum, “Meet him in front of the Chucky Cheese at 5:00 p.m. or you’ll never see me again.” Justine tries to honor his wishes but is sidetracked when destiny plays a hand. One of her co-workers gets sick on blueberries that were bought from a man on the side of the road. Justine is forced to take her to the hospital and runs late. It’s almost as if the two were never destined to get together but Justine makes it to the Chucky Cheese an hour and half late. Holden is still there waiting. He hops in the car and both of them head to the local motel to seal the intimate part of their relationship.


From here on end the story gets more complicated. Phil’s friend Bubba catches Justine and Holden at the motel and blackmails her into sleeping him or threatens to tell Phil, the security guard at the Retail Rodeo listens in on Justine and Holden’s private love making sessions in the stock room and brings it up during a police investigation, and Justine gets pregnant but it can’t be Phil’s baby because he has a low sperm count.


Arteta and writer, Mike White, tie up the loose ends of this movie very well. The audience walks away wondering is Aniston’s character really immoral and despicable or just sensible. The story line makes you ask the question, what constitutes being a good girl? Even after Justine has her baby, the expression on her face tells the audience that she still doesn’t look happy with her life… but one wonders, what is it about life that can make you truly happy?


In order to capture the essence of this film you have to look at two things. The way Arteta captures the expressions on the actor’s faces and the one-line zingers that the characters state through out the movie. Though there are a lot of one line clichés it does fit well with the characters role and it stays with in the movie’s plot. Arteta is able to pull off this movie because the cast meshed well together. Everything just fit right. The chemistry was there. Then add Arteta’s eye for directing emotional moments on his actor’s faces and you have a well-directed and fun movie.

C. J. Kurkowski is a freelance writer living in the Chicago area. He has published poetry, and non-fiction pieces for 256 Shades of Grey, The Statesman, OUT in Chicago, and NOTA.

Date Released: 08/09/2002
Rated: R (for sexuality, language and some drug content)
Length: 94 minutes
Produced by: Matthew Greenfield
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C. Reilly, Zooey Deschanel, Deborah Rush, Tim Blake Nelson, Mike White
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

To Buy The Movie:

The Good Girl Web Site: