In Good Company

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 01/14/05 00:40:06

"Two Men and A Young Woman -- and One Big Corporation."
5 stars (Awesome)

Dan Foreman and Carter Duryea are a study in contrasts. At age 51, Dan (Dennis Quaid) is a happily married man whose wife Ann (Marg Helgenberger) has just announced that she is pregnant. 26 year old Carter (Topher Grace), married just seven months, arrives home one day to find his wife Kimmy (Selma Blair) with her bags packed. When he tells her he wants to have children with her, her response is that she isn’t sure she ever wants children – which she had told him candidly on their second date

Dan loves his job selling advertising space for a sports magazine, and he’s terrific at it. His clients, with whom he shares a great camaraderie, are middle-aged executives like himself. The concept of loving a job doesn’t seem to occur to Carter, who is on the corporate fast-track marketing cellular phones shaped like dinosaurs to children five-and-under.

Things change when Dan’s company is acquired by Carter’s in a corporate takeover and Carter is promoted to being the head of ad sales for the Sports America magazine division – Dan’s job. Dan, considered a bit of a dinosaur himself in the “new” corporate environment, dodges a layoff but is demoted to working for Carter – effectively becoming his new “boss-man’s wingman.”

Threatened with a cut in salary, Dan must tighten his belt even as he is trying to figure out a way to send his daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) to NYU. Flush with the huge raise he has been given along with his promotion, Carter splurges on a Porsche, which he crashes even before driving it off the lot. In beautifully juxtaposed scenes demonstrating another of life’s – and the movie’s – little ironies, Dan and Ann are shown signing the papers for the second mortgage that will fund Alex’s education, at the same time Carter is shown signing the final papers for his divorce.

Things become even more complicated for both men when the desperately lonely Carter, whose entire life is centered on his seven-day-a-week job, invites himself to Dan’s home for a Sunday dinner and meets Alex, who knocks him for a loop. The two men’s uneasy relationship is sorely tested when the two young people begin an affair.

As the two men who clash in the game of Office Politics, Quaid and Grace are a cinematic dream team. Neither of their characters is entirely hero or villain, and each is played with the nuance he deserves.

Dan epitomizes the perfect salesman, the ultimate "people person," who has to teach the clueless Carter that firing a person isn't that same as telling a person who doesn't WANT to go that he or she is being "let go." Conversely, he is a man who admittedly has found great comfort and security in his "foxhole," who has to learn abruptly to deal with change.

Carter plays the game of "synergy" – the only one he's been taught – but despite his bravado, he is a still a little wobbly on the rules. In a wonderfully endearing scene, Alex tells Carter he is "bizarrely honest." Carter's bizarrely honest response is that he is only so with her – that to everyone else, he is an "emotionally guarded, anal-retentive asshole."

Standouts in the excellent cast of supporting players are David Paymer and Amy Aquino as Dan’s long-time co-workers and friends, Morty and Alicia; Malcolm McDowell as Teddy K., the Rupert Murdoch-like CEO of multi-national conglomerate GlobeCom; Philip Baker Hall and Frankie Faison as Dan’s valued customers, Eugene and Corwin – men who, like Dan, are much too talented to be run over, just yet, by corporate youth; and Clark Gregg as Steckle, corporate kiss-ass and #1 sycophant to Teddy K.

In Good Company is that rare treasure, a big-studio crowd pleaser that is bursting with intelligence, wit, and style. At once heartwarming and hilarious, perceptive and poignant, it had me smiling for its entire 109 minute running time but also brought tears to my eyes more than once. Featuring a top-notch cast whose acting is uniformly stellar; a sharply written script by Paul Weitz, whose direction keeps things moving at a nicely breezy pace; and a killer soundtrack, with original music by Stephen Trask and performances by Aretha Franklin, David Byrne, Diana Krall, Peter Gabriel, Iron & Wine, and Steely Dan, In Good Company could easily hold its own among the best of any given year. In 2005, a year in which the studios have slated the release of an unprecedented number of sequels, prequels, and remakes, as well as a glut of horror movies and comic book translations to screen, In Good Company is a blessing. (Technically, the movie was released in December 2004 in New York and L.A., but for most of us, it promises to be one of the highlights of our 2005 filmgoing experiences.)

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