Thursday, 7 May 2009

Movie Review - In Good Company

I went to see In Good Company with mixed expectations. On the one hand it is directed by Paul Weitz who was in charge of one of my favourite comedies of all time, About A Boy, and Dennis Quaid starred in another of my all-time faves, Undercover Blues. On the other hand the trailer was less than inspiring and I’m definitely not in the apparently huge Scarlett Johansen fan club. Topher Grace is not an actor I remember seeing in anything, but his name conjured up horrific images of health food products. Still, that wasn’t his fault…

Aging Ad Sales Manager Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid [The Day After Tomorrow, Undercover Blues) is facing a nightmare – the company he works for is being taken over and a new, much younger manager is going to take over his role. His daughter (Scarlett Johansen [Lost In Translation, Girl With The Pearl Earring) seems to be becoming distanced from him, and to top it all his wife (Ann – Marg Helgenberger from CSI) is pregnant. The new owners of the company want more profits and this means they will be “letting people go” – not that they actually want to go.

Carter (Topher Grace [Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!, “That 70’s Show”]), Dan’s new manager, is going through a crisis of his own – though his career is on the up and up, his personal life seems to be caught in a never-ending downward spiral. To make things more complicated he falls for Alex…

Their lives become ever more closely entwined as they find out what the truly important things are, and that traditional values and methods aren’t always quite as outdated as they seem…

Quaid’s performance (his astonishing – and thus faintly distracting - likeness to Harrison Ford notwithstanding!) is nicely measured and this style of comedy suits him down to the ground. Grace is slightly less assured as the career-driven Carter. I didn’t think his performance was actually bad, and it certainly improved in the second part of the film – it just lacked a certain emotional breadth. The trouble was that he didn’t look genuinely enthusiastic about his work at the start, so it was hard to believe his transition from corporate hotshot to real human being, because he never truly looked like a corporate hotshot in the first place. Johansen was fine, she neither impressed nor disappointed me. However I did find the romance between her character and Carter a little hard to believe.

The message of the film – that corporate culture was destroying society – is a serious issue that’s definitely worth dealing with (and probably hasn’t been given enough attention in the past). This film offers a credible but rather heavy-handed treatment that does get the point across fairly well. This image is portrayed most sharply by the intensely dislikeable Steckle (Clark Gregg [The Human Stain, One Hour Photo]). The scene where he gets what’s coming to him is satisfying enough to avoid coming across as manipulative… though in reality it is! (Poignant is another word that could describe it even if it does lack subtlety.)

In Good Company offers quite a few laughs but don’t expect this to be another About A Boy. Most of the real laughs come from Quaid (though Helgenberger as his wife gives him a run for his money despite her relatively minor role). The plot is pretty mundane for the most part – it seems to follow from one set piece to another without a great deal of characterisation in between – some of the transitions really jar, instead of flowing smoothly from one scene to another. I guess the desire to get its point across sometimes just got in the way of the filmmaking. On the positive side the film’s ending certainly wasn’t what I’d expected and one of the final scenes was very funny. A little disappointing overall but it definitely had its moments of inspiration. (The music score is also pretty good though perhaps not quite as memorable as Badly Drawn Boys’ soundtrack on About A Boy.)

Another problem is that, though there is some characterisation, the characters (apart from Dan and his wife) are just plain dull. Alex and Carter are, basically, boring individuals without much depth. There are some terrific supporting cast members including the excellent David Paymer and the always watchable Amy Aquino, it’s a pity that they didn’t have more to do in this movie.

Overall I did enjoy it, but I won’t be in a hurry to watch it again. If you’re a fan of Quaid you’ll definitely enjoy it, and if you’re a fan of Johansen (particularly her twiggy legs) you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did. But anyway, if you’re looking for something fairly undemanding with a good message and a few laughs, In Good Company will certainly keep you happily amused for an hour and a half. It’ll be lucky to make it into my Top Ten Films of 2004 though… (when I eventually get round to writing it…)

Other Information

Rated PG (UK) PG-13 (USA) for some sexual content and drug references. There was a little bad language in the film.
Length: 109 min

Related Links

Paul Weltz: About A Boy
Dennis Quaid: The Day After Tomorrow
Scarlett Johansen: Lost In Translation, The Island

See also:

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