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Mike White Is Corny And Worse: “The Good Girl”

Cover of "The Good Girl"

Cover of The Good Girl

The Good Girl, from 2002, is a flop.

Jennifer Aniston plays Justine Last, a retail store assistant who attempts to escape her hated husband and her hated life by having a no-account affair with a young neurotic (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Intelligent people are well aware that the film is dreadfully condescending to small-town Texans, but it is also true that after the condescension finally eases up, scriptwriter Mike White proffers a phony happy ending.  We are prompted to ask a few questions:  Why, really, does Justine hate her husband (John C. Reilly)?  Because he frequently smokes pot?  Did she not know what he was like before they got married?  Did he have her fooled?  No answers are supplied.

White substitutes serious intent for credibility.  Eventually Justine’s hubby learns of her unfaithfulness, but, well, he accepts it.  He stays married to her.  Convincing?  No.

Directed by Miguel ArtetaThe Good Girl is an unprofound nonentity, the very thing the filmmakers don’t believe it to be.  Its cheapness is enough to make it a nonentity.  Mike White himself, an actor as well as a screenwriter, plays Corny, a security guard and a Christian, one who turns out to be, in Justine’s words, a “Bible-thumping pervert.”  At length he gets beaten up for something he never did, which is, to White, no big deal.

“Straw Dogs” Is Better Than Most Of Today’s Fare

Straw Dogs (1971 film)

Straw Dogs (1971 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m tired of contemporary Hollywood films that appear to have been scripted by young, liberal know-it-alls (example: Spider-Man: Homecoming).  By no means is this the case with a Hollywood item from the past like Sam Peckinpah‘s Straw Dogs (1971), which I reviewed on this site once before.  I said the film was not quite a success, but I demur from that now.  It is an imperfect but serious and riveting thriller.

A “straw dog” is something that is made only to be destroyed.  David (Dustin Hoffman) and Amy (Susan George) are trying to make a life for themselves in Amy’s Cornish village, but shiftless, lascivious rustics soon intend to destroy it.  They clearly diss David the intellectual and envy his union with pretty Amy, who is sexually victimized by two of them.  Although this has nothing to do with Amy’s not being a strong woman, it is indeed true that she is not strong (a notion the know-it-alls would refuse to brook) , but neither is David.  They’re both very human.  David is not manly enough until the last act, and he is imperceptive.

Straw Dogs is hard on the human race, which is, as critic John Simon has put it, “eager for compromise, wallowing in reciprocal abasement, and balking at accommodation only when denied even its widow’s mite.”  A measure of sympathy, though, goes to the primary characters, to David and Amy, and it is also certain that screenwriters Peckinpah and David Zelag Goodman—the film is based on a novel by Gordon Williams—never pretend to have their understanding of these two persons all wrapped up.  As the film runs its course, they constantly probe David and Amy for who they are, what they think, what they want.  None of this has anything to do with ideology or intellectual stasis.  It has to do with artistic acumen.  Although it’s a shame that Dogs may have been Peckinpah’s last good film, at least genuinely young, Millennial-like minds were not behind it.

Nightclub Ida: “The Man I Love”

The Man I Love (film)

The Man I Love (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In large measure Raoul Walsh‘s The Man I Love (1947) is about nightclub life, with a chunk of real shadiness tossed in.  Ida Lupino stars as a tough-minded but amiable club singer, who doesn’t care much about her job since her boss (Robert Alda) is a cocky heel who makes advances to her.  Alda ain’t the man she loves; really, the man she loves seems like a bore and is badly acted by Bruce Bennett.  Lupino’s scenes with him are the weakest in the movie.

Other scenes, however, such as those with Petey Brown (Lupino) and her family, are spunky and agreeable.  The movie in toto is agreeable, if without the greatest plot in the world.

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