The Good Girl – 4 stars

The Good Girl. Mike White and Miguel Arteta’s Chuck and Buck was a creepy, human story about the loneliness of a boy whose development is arrested by his mother, unfortunately, at the moment he had sex with his childhood pal. When the mother dies, Buck goes to the only other person he’s ever loved, the now grown-up neighbor boy (Chuck) who lives in LA. In The Good Girl, White’s protagonist, small town Texas sales girl Jennifer Aniston, evinces a desolation that is more pronounced. She tells us of her misery, her dead-end job, her stoner but loveable galoot of a husband, her inability to get pregnant, in voice-over. However, she too must decide if and where to go. The story is about Aniston confronting, as opposed to overcoming her surroundings, and making non-Hollywood compromises in the end. The film has several things going for it: Aniston is cooly effective; she alternates between wily/selfish and lost/depressed very well. John C. Reilly (the galoot), Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tim Blake Nelson play the men in her life, and they’re all distinctive and even soulful. Better, The Good Girl neither sanctifies or lampoons small town America. There are things to laugh at, but White writes each of his characters (including his own Bible-reading session advocating security guard) with dignity. No one is sneering, but John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” is not assaulting our sensibilities either. What I liked most was the languid pace (others may find it too sluggish) and its lack of easy, pat lesson.

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