I wonder how much dust jacket movie reviewers rake in to describe every love story as if it was Casablanca, every drama as the next Gone With the Wind, and every comedy like a Peter Sellers, Marx Brothers or Airplane classic. If Jennifer Aniston's The Good Girl is indeed "a comedy of winning delicacy and heart", and "one of the year's best films", then with apologies to A Beautiful Mind, 2002 must have represented a vast cinematic wasteland.
Aniston (Friends, Rumor Has It) plays Justine, a low key, average, and yes, dowdy woman, working in a dead-end job at a Wal-Mart-esque department store in small town America. Justine longs for something more, but exhibits a defeated surrender to life, allowing it to simply happen to her. She endures an uninspiring relationship with her stoner husband and his perpetually present friend. Inexplicably, she and hubby (John C Reilly) are attempting to have a baby, perhaps only to inject much needed life and focus to their existence.
Justine embodies a "good girl", not because she is particularly kind or virtuous, but because she goes through life doing exactly what is expected. Outwardly, she appears unmotivated and decidedly uninteresting. Her life takes a turn when she befriends a much younger socially distant co-worker (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose outcast ideals and brooding personality swallow her into a dark fantasy life tinged with guilt and promise. When he, with not so quiet desperation, and she, without, become unlikely lovers--He lives at home with Mom and Dad--secrecy, blackmail, and unexpected twists take The Good Girl strangely full circle.
The saving grace of The Good Girl is the intelligent and often poetic beauty of Justine's voiceovers, which seem almost incongruent with her onscreen persona. Yet through a much richer vocabulary, they truly reflect her secret desires, and provide insight, understanding and sympathy to an apparently complacent character.
The Good Girl is simply not a comedy. Nor is it a particularly appealing, endearing, or exciting movie. However, it does teach us not to be Justine; to consciously examine the mundane in our lives, to take control, and walk consciously into the future