In Good Company (2004)


“In Good Company” is a great comedy drama that is both a study of life, and relationships. Director Paul Weitz manages to create a bittersweet portrait of Dan Foreman, a salesman for magazine ads who basically has his life under control, but when a company conglomerate buys out Dan’s magazine, he finds himself extremely humbled and wounded when he discovers his boss is a man named Carter, who is more than twenty years his junior. Now he has to adjust against his own will and better judgment, but the film becomes more esoteric under Weitz’ direction in which the modern villain, the big corporation, only becomes a microcosm for the recurring and strong theme of change, and approaching change with immense uncertainty. Even as Dan’s wife is about to bear a child. That is the strong connection every character bears during the story, as Weitz succeeds in tackling what life is all about: doubt, and worry, even in the climax.

What Weitz has perfected is in creating some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen on film and he accomplishes the equally difficult task of creating more of them. Weitz knows how to write human characters. He knows how to create individuals with distinctive personalities and traits and no one is broadly sketched in their strokes. The problem with the whole conglomerate takeover is the fact that the person who is running it, Carter Duryea is in way over his head and has no real clue what to do with the large load he’s just been entrusted with. Playing the really likable Carter is the equally likable Topher Grace who manages to hold his own amidst heavyweights such as Quaid, Helgenberger, and Johannsen. Grace is utterly hilarious here and very good and quirky. Grace embodies that uncertainty and sheer humility, not to mention his charming befuddlement which makes him very appealing.

He’s not a bad guy, he’s actually a good guy, he’s really just a patsy to a big corporation who has bigger plans beyond a big magazine. Right off the back we’re given a true definition of who he is, and Grace handles it with a lot of skill and is the perfect fit in this role. Grace was very charming in the film “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” and has the potential to be a fine actor as is evident in his performance. Quaid is equally good as a conflicted man who is knocked down a peg against his will. Quaid has the been there done that attitude which uses against Carter, and the two have a very opposite chemistry that is so much fun to watch on-screen, especially when they’re rivaling one another in the business and social field, and then there’s Alex, Dan’s oldest daughter who is approaching a new stage of her life and isn’t sure what she should do, until Carter enters her life and suddenly connects to her. The two form an instant bond and Carter responds to her very emotionally as she seems to instill a sense of stability, and reason in his life that is sorely lacking.

Otherwise the film comprises a very balanced mix of laugh out loud comedy with often deadpan delivery from Grace and Quaid, to down to the core humanity with some sad moments. As with “About a Boy”, Weitz creates one liners that are just hilarious and creates some memorable sequences including the basketball game, Dan and Carter’s first meeting which was ripe with tension and all out hilarity, and the two pack a lot of power in their performances relying on simplicity. The film is bittersweet without bumming the audience out as evident by the very sad climax that will surely touch people without having them feel emotionally manipulated or forced in to having to care about these people. This is a satisfying food for the soul type of film and while it all doesn’t end the way audiences will want it, it is ultimately realistic and will leave smiles on the audiences faces. This is a very well done film that once again reflects upon the directing of Weitz with humanity seeping all over this. What more can you possibly ask for? Great direction, well written, very well acted, good cast, great story, funny and sad and all of it ends up being a really solid slice of life portrait.