Writer-director Paul Weitz warms over the cold truth of corporate globalization by giving it a puppy-cute face in this sub-Ephron gloss on the white-middle-class-in-peril, soundtrack-fueled sitcom. Topher Grace, fresh from the embarrassment of his smug auto-cameo in Ocean’s Twelve (where he crookedly refers to having “totally phoned in that Dennis Quaid movie”), plays a 26-year-old corporate fuckball named Carter Duryea, who finds himself thrust blindly in charge of a sports magazine sales division after a conglomerate merger. Old school sales head Dan (Quaid) is demoted but kept at the magazine by his needy, inept new boss. Lonely and constantly overzealous from his addiction to that safe upper, caffeine (take a guess which coffee chain is incessantly plugged—as the movie simultaneously moralizes about corporate incest), it isn’t long before Carter has penetrated Dan’s domestic bliss, as well as his daughter (Scarlett Johansson). The convincingly weary Quaid and poised, sultry Johansson offer sincerity as an antidote to wretchedly one-note roles—and as a subtextual bonus, the father-daughter coupling basically guarantees an Oedipal complex, and their aching glances at one another hardly disappoint. But it is with the characterization of Carter that Weitz and Grace veer critically awry. Carter clearly is meant to represent all the ignorant, deluded fools in the corporate pipeline whose presence is antithetical to anything challenging or idiosyncratic; he is the mechanism for the movie’s social commentary, or as it ultimately pans out, lack thereof. The appropriately bland Grace plays Carter as too naïve to be loathsome, but that doesn’t make him any less wormlike. How interesting it would be if his performance had unfolded like Hayden Christensen’s in Shattered Glass, with the character’s false bravado eventually crumbling into a morass of existential emptiness. Grace’s effort to make us sympathize with Carter consists of batting his bedroom eyes and muttering inarticulately instead of extolling any human virtues—and even after his utterly phony third-act transformation, the movie still hasn’t admitted that Carter Duryea, no matter how adorable, is a menace to the world. Perhaps Weitz was afraid to bite the hand that feeds. After all, it was probably somebody like Carter at Universal who changed the film’s original title Synergy to the narcissistic double entendre In Good Company.
- Paul Weitz
- Paul Weitz
- Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Selma Blair, Amy Aquino, Philip Baker Hall, Malcolm McDowell
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