Lost Souls

  • Share
  • Read Later
Attention, shoppers! your store manager's special today is chronic depression. We are offering rock-bottom prices on every variety of human misery — alienation, anomie, suppressed anger, sexual restlessness.

Poor Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston). When she gets home from clerking at Retail Rodeo, her life is even more awful. Her husband (John C. Reilly) is a house painter with a disastrous sperm count. Mostly he sits around stoned, watching inane TV. No wonder Justine starts making eyes at Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), the cute new guy at work. He has borrowed his name from The Catcher in the Rye, but his soulful air masks a dangerous obsessiveness.

The Good Girl tries to have fun with minimum-wage, dead-end America, and it does jerk some reluctant laughs out of us. On the other hand, like Chuck & Buck, the previous film by director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White, it is rather too well disposed to near psychotic behavior. Deranged souls are not necessarily holy fools. And depressed ones — however subversive — are not in the end very funny.

What makes The Good Girl worthwhile is its performances. All the actors play their entrapment with a weirdly convicted blankness. That's especially true of Aniston. Her Justine is short on book learning, but her instincts are sound. Her escapist strivings lead her into deep, even violent, victimization. Yet you remain invested in her, hoping she will escape her dim fate, hoping this patronizing film will rise above its mostly false sympathy for the American underclass.