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Film Review

Scott Cunningham

The Good Girl (2002)isn’t good enoughFilm reviewBy Scott CunninghamWho is Mike White? Based on his previous collaboration with director Miguel Arteta, Chuck and Buck (2000), White, screenwriter of The Good Girl with Jennifer Aniston, is a sexually-confused man-child with an overactive imagination. I’m basing this conclusion on the assumption that writers write well when their subject is close to home, the fact that Chuck and Buck was really good, and unidentified sources in L.A. who have confirmed this information.In The Good Girl, White offers a much more average portrait for himself: Holden Worther (Jake Gyllenhaal, who I believe was genetically-engineered by Hollywood to replace Tobey Maguire, after the latter got too buff), the quintessential sissy writer boy.Worther’s real first name is “Tom,” but he prefers “Holden,” after the protagonist in J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” He’s a heavy drinker, a fatalistic romantic, and a parody of teenage angst. He can only write the same story over and over. He has only one concrete idea: to ride with Jennifer Aniston’s bluntly-named Justine Last into the sunset. OK, two. To die young after re-writing “The Catcher in the Rye.”I’m assuming White chose this book for the same reason I refused to read it until last year. It’s become such a clich that it’s hard to take at least the idea of it seriously. For someone like my teenage self, who took everything seriously, such a silly book was of no interest. White lets Holden, Tom Worther that is, indulge in it, in order to I’d say show the dangers of taking things too seriously, but Holden’s death is just a joke in the film. Which I guess translates to not taking things seriously.The Good Girl is far from an all-out humor binge, though; it’s not nearly joyful enough, like, say, Dumb and Dumber, but it’s not quite the incisive black comedy it claims to be either. It’s humor preys on some very trite observations: that Bible-thumping Christians are hokey, that stores like Wal-Mart are soulless and depressing, that marriages falter and sputter and small towns can be stifling. At times it feels like the movie Holden would have written. You can hear his synopsis of it in the film itself, as Justine summarizes Holden’s repetitive stories.There are some entertaining moments, provided mostly by Zooey Deschanel’s fearlessly bored Cheryl and Tim Blake Nelson’s poetic loser Bubba, and Aniston is the perfect straight woman. For a movie star, she’s incredibly adept at acting like a real person.But Mike White, you’re not a real person, or a literary classic-thumping teenager. You’re an extremely disturbed, sexually-confused man-child. Write what you know, dammit.My advice to filmgoers: skip The Good Girl and wait for Chuck and Buck 2: Chuck and the Chocolate Factory.

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