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IN GOOD COMPANY

SYNOPSIS:
When 51 year old Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), the ad sales team leader at the weekly magazine, Sports America, is demoted in favour of Carter Dureya (Topher Grace) a 26 year old whiz kid, his safety zone crumbles. The timing couldn't be worse, with his wife's unexpected pregnancy and his eldest daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) wanting to go to the expensive NYU. But they do get worse, when he discovers that Carter and Alex have started an affair. The company has been taken over and jobs are lost; will Dan's be next? Will life ever be the same again?

Review by Louise Keller:
Set on a corporate battleground, In Good Company is a good -natured film that makes for very good company with its astute, well-judged performances and an unsentimental, well observed script. Written and directed by Paul Weitz (About a Boy) and his brother Chris Weitz, who together collaborated on the American Pie franchise, the film is entertaining and funny in a real kind of way, as it observes human behaviour and relationships at work and at play. Two men at different ages and stages of their lives meet, clash and learn something from each other. There couldn't be two more different types of men than Dennis Quaid's sincere sales executive and Topher Grace's ambitious corporate climber Carter. They begin by having nothing in common and end up with an understanding that stems from mutual respect. This is a story filled with irony and coincidence, as the men struggle to come to terms with the changes that are forced upon them.

Quaid's multi-layered Dan Foreman is the epitome of the decent all-American bloke, who gets up at the crack of dawn and doesn't come home until the wee small hours, working hard at the job he believes in and for the family he loves. Quaid is a likeable actor who can charm with his boyish smile, or convince us he is a bloke's bloke with a firm handshake. Dan's demotion at work to an 'emotionally crippled asshole' young enough to be his son is made much worse when he learns that Carter is seeing his precious daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) who brings gravitas to every single scene - from her beautifully expressive face to her natural delivery. There's an easiness about the atmosphere at the Foreman household which rings true. Situations, such as when Carter invites himself to dinner and the meal (which ends up on the floor) is quickly replaced after a speedy phone call to Dominos, are never overplayed or played for laughs. We recognize moments like these as being part of family life and as a result, we connect with the characters.

Grace (Win a Date With Tad Hamilton) starts out as a slimy upstart, and we sympathise with his wife (Selma Blair effective in a small role), but develops into a vulnerable and appealing human in touch with his own emotions and those around him. Carter believes he knows what he wants, but it's not until he meets Dan, that he recognizes that the Porsche, the promotion and the power have little of the allure he once thought. With only his pet fish Buddy to keep him company, Carter's life increasingly seems hollow, while Dan's life is replete with meaningful relationships and a job which he enjoys because he really believes in what he does. In Good Company is an old fashioned character driven film that has no major plot points, car chases or special effects. It's involving, occasionally touching and often funny, delighting us with the honest pen of which it is born.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
While making the grade as a comedy based on serious ideas, In Good Company loses its way after a promising first half, when it runs out of ideas and energy. The irony is that the film actually contains too many ideas for its own good, but they don't all cohabit easily. The corporate shuffle idea takes central place, as the old execs are bumped aside in a cost cutting blitz when the company is taken over by a maverick entrepreneur, played with gusto by the white, spiky haired Malcolm McDowell who has one scene in which to make an impact.

The script is pulled this way and that as writer/director Paul Weitz tries to fuse a romantic comedy onto the drama of an older salesman and his demise. The romantic comedy, though, doesn't really have a payoff, and the character drama about Dan almost completely ignores his wife, who is rather old to have a baby - which we never get to see. These loose ends are unnecessary burdens for a comedy that sets out to play with the ideas of expendable staff and ageist corporatism.

To put it kindly, Paul Weitz's screenplay is too ambitious for this project. The film is saved by grounding performances from the three leads, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace and Scarlett Johannson. They each bring a vibrant character to life, and our engagement is due entirely to their portrayals. True, there are some laugh-out loud moments and lines, but too often the material skids away from under Paul Weitz as he tries to fashion a complex, multi faceted genre film from two divergent genres. I'm not saying it can't work, but here, the ideas and the mood keep drifting apart.

Likeable but not fully satisfying, In Good Company is just a few good strokes short.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

IN GOOD COMPANY (PG)
(US, 2004)

CAST: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, Philip Baker Hall, Selma Blair

PRODUCER: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz

DIRECTOR: Paul Weitz

SCRIPT: Paul Weitz

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Remi Adefarasin

EDITOR: Myron I. Kerstein

MUSIC: Stephen Trask

PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Arnold

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 21, 2005







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