Last night, I popped the DVD of In Good Company
into ye olde DVD player and gave it a whirl. Watching the movie, I found it an interesting sort of companion piece to one of my favorite comedies, Office Space
. Both movies deal with the coroprate working environment that many of us face today, but while Office Space
is played for laughts, In Good Company
goes for a different, more character- and emotion-driven story.
By the way, just so you know, I am going to discuss large chunks of the movie here and it will get SPOILERy if you've not seen it...so read on at your own risk if you've not seen the film...
Dennis Quaid plays Dan Foreman, a 51-year old ad excecutive for a popular sports magazine. He's been with the company for 20 plus years, has two daughters (one in college, Alex, played by Scarlett Johanssen and a one in high school), the mortgage and another child on the way. One day, the company that owns the magazine is bought out by another and the new company sends in Carter Duryea, played by Topher Grace, to replace Dan as the head of the team. On his first day, Carter happens to meet Alex in the elevator and he later runs into her again and the two start dating on the sly so as not to incur the wrath of Dan.
The story is one that really looks at--what if in life counts as successful? Looking at Carter, he seems to have a career on the fast track and is known by the head of his corporation as an up and comer. He's being groomed he finds out early in the film for advancement within the company, but the question comes up--is he really happy? Has he chosen just a job or has he actually found a career, something that he likes doing and better yet, believes in doing? As the movie starts, Carter is married to a woman and the two are like virtual strangers. She eventually leaves him after Carter suggests now they can start a family, something she does not want to do and has stated as such since their second date. (Interestingly, later Carter tells Alex his marriage was doomed from the second date onward). Over the course of the movie, we see Carter obtain things he think should make him happy--a Porsche (which he wrecks going off the lot), tickets to big events, the attention of a mover and shaker. But at a fundamental level, he is frightfully lonely--to the point that he calls a Sunday meeting for his staff and latching onto Dan's sarcastic suggestion that he come home for dinner.
Meanwhile, we have Dan, a man who has had a great career doing what he loves. He's not a high-pressure sales guy but instead wants to get to know his clients and make sure the relationship works for both sides. He hates buzz words and he has the respect and friendship of his team, many of whom he hired. He's got the wife, two kids and one on the way, two mortgages and the family station wagon. Early in the movie, when we first found out about the wife's pregnancy, Dan hopes for a son this time. We also learn that Carter's father left at the age of four and he never had a father figure.
Interestingly enough, the two develop a father/son type of relationship with Dan as a mentor. It goes so far that Carter is forced to fire a lot of Dan's former staff, all while coming up with a vareity of excuses to keep Dan around as a mentor. Also, as the movie unfolds, we see how desparately discontent Carter is with every aspect of his life and how content and happy Dan is with his. At one point, Carter asks Dan for marriage advice and how he knew his wife was the one and Dan replies, "You find someone you want to be in the foxhole with and you keep it in your pants outside the foxhole." (I am paraphrasing badly here, but you get the idea)
Of course, the irony of the scene is that Dan has no idea that Carter is talking about Alex at this point. The two meet early in the film when Carter admits to her he's scared of taking over the job, not knowing who she is. The two flirt during the dinner at Dan's house and them meet randomly at a coffee shop later and start dating. Interestingly, as the movie proceeds, Carter begins to fall in love with Alex and while she has a great deal of affection for him, she still has to finish college and isn't ready for the big commitment that Carter wants.
Indeed, this brings up a whole subplot about timing and people being ready for things in their lives. Carter is on the rebound and ready to find someone to fill the gap in his life that he's been trying to fill with work, relationships, stuff meanwhile Dan has the right balance in his life and while the news of a new baby throws him at first, he embraces it and starts looking forward to being a new dad again...this despite the stress of worrying about his job.
I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the film. Not so much that I feel compelled to run out and buy on DVD, but enough that it's one that I'd watch again if I flipped past it on a cable. If you've not seen it, I recommend it to you...I promise I've only ruined about 3/4s of the film here. I won't tell you how it ends, but I will say this--it does not end in the typical Hollywood formula manner I expected. The choices it makes in the final half hour are interesting ones--not only because they don't go the cliche route, but because they all make sense based on what we've found out about these characters over the course of the film. And it's not really an ending to the story so much as a turning of the page to a new chapter for our two protagonists Dan and Carter.
And hey, it provoked a bit of thought and long-ish post for me..so on that level it must be doing something right...
posted by Michael Hickerson at 7/13/2005 12:16:00 PM