In Good Company (2004) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some sexual content, language, and some drug references
Running Time: 109 min.
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Malcolm McDowell, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Philip Baker Hall, Selma Blair, Frankie Faison, Zena Grey
Director: Paul Weitz
Screenplay: Paul Weitz
In Good Company sees writer-director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) maturing even more as a filmmaker, as he gets the tone of this seriocomic look at the state of corporations and their anti-family approach mostly right. A few juvenile indulgences peek in here and there, and some obvious tries at easy gags, but when it is good, it is very good. The solid acting serves to remind us that Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow, Cold Creek Manor) is still an undervalued actor, and relative newcomer Topher Grace (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, "That 70s Show") might actually be as well. With a nice supporting cast who are able to play for comedy and drama with equal skill, In Good Company is able to strike the right notes at the right times, and overshadow its occasional lapses, with intelligence and credibility.
Topher Grace stars as 26-year-old executive, Carter Duryea, who works for one of the world's leading conglomerates, Globalcom. When Globalcom takes over a smaller magazine company, Carter is cherry-picked to make some sweeping changes to the advertising division to the flagship magazine in the new acquisition, "Sports America", ousting the current head, Dan Foreman (Quaid), a man twice his age, and demoting him his "wing man" in the office. Humiliated by his new role, Dan finds he must swallow his pride to avoid losing his job, now that his daughter Alex (Johansson, Lost in Translation) needs money to go to NYU and his wife (Helgenberger, Bad Boys) finds herself pregnant, to everyone's surprise. Meanwhile, Carter is being pressured to become the axe-man for the company, and lay off many of the office's highest-paid employees, although he can't bring himself to get rid of Dan, whom he secretly admires for being everything he wishes he could be.
Weitz is still a bit shaky in his control of this very ambitious movie, but all things considered, this is smooth sailing most of the way. Alternating between sitcom comedy, deep drama, burgeoning romance, and family matters is no easy feat, and even though trimming down one of these would probably not have made the movie worse, each aspect has enough strengths to justify its own existence.
Helping immensely, Carter and Dan are interesting characters, mostly because they are well-rounded enough to show that they have other things on their mind during every scene. With all of the little side stories and pressures, they carry the weight of all these developments throughout, and it shows in subtle expressions. Credit goes to Quaid and Grace for never playing any scene in a vacuum, allowing their characters the complexity to express without having to explain verbally, and to grow in their experiences before the film ends.
In Good Company, like some of its kin in the world of movies about the struggle between personal ethics and corporate success (Working Girl comes to mind), offers up enough food for thought and decent laughs to make up for the moments of uneasiness. Although the movie never really tackles the serious issues with any real bite, it does give us just enough to let us draw our own conclusions, while we are entertained by this well-made situation comedy with heart.
©2005 Vince Leo