2004, US, Directed by Paul Weitz
Colour, Running Time: 109 minutes
Review Source: Film 4 Broadcast; Image: 1.78:1, Audio: Dolby Surround
Upcoming marketing hotshot Carter lands himself an executive position with a globally advancing company, placing him in commanding roles over a department of people mostly with years of experience more than him, as well as being near enough twice his age in many cases. Carter settles into his new boasting in an energetic, motivational manner that pleases his immediate boss, earns him a fat salary, but little respect from his subordinates as a subsequent regime of early retirement takes place to relieve the company of a burden costing hundreds of thousands a year. Not all is rosy in Carter’s life, however, as his wife of a paltry seven months deserts him, his new Porsche is crashed within seconds of driving it from the forecourt, and he suddenly realises that he’s rather lonely in his penthouse apartment. But at least he has his booming career… 51 year old Dan is one of the men shuffled into the backseat as Carter takes the reins, and it materialises that Dan also has a very attractive daughter that the rebounding Carter finds himself wining/dining pretty quickly, unbeknownst to the father. As company politics snowball and Dan discovers the slippery slope towards the old-age landfill before him, it’s only a matter of time before all issues collide to produce some sort of dramatic mutant offspring.
There are quite a few threads going on in the film that makes it hard to quantify in terms of genre (should that even be considered a necessity) - it appears to be heading the direction of comedy, when it opts for the romantic turn, before diverting for drama. In that sense it’s ambitious though I’m not fully convinced it knows exactly what it’s doing all of the time. There are also a couple of central characters so the individual perspective is blurred a little - Carter is an arrogant youngster who’s not easy to like, probably a deliberate effort as attempts are later revealed to induce sympathy within us for the person that probably represents someone most of us despise in real life. Then there is Dan who is teetering on the edge of the scrap heap that inevitably awaits all of us in a world designed essentially by and for the young. It’s clearly easy to empathise with the latter’s plight, even more so when it becomes apparent that his relationship with his daughter is deteriorating due to her relationship with the whippersnapper that holds the father’s career, and possibly life-value, in the palm of his sweaty hand. Scarlett Johannsen, playing the daughter, is less utilised here than she might have been had the film been made a year or more later, 2004 being around the breakthrough point for her more than anything preceding that. She appealingly plays her character as someone just shy of maturity in the earlier scenes, progressing to more of a grown woman during the course of the story. This causes her dad much strife as she transforms from the innocent child of his moulding, into an adult that formulates decisions on who to mate with, etc., before deciding to mate with the biggest asshole of Dan’s nightmares at that point in time.
Wrapped around the lives of these people is a fairly clichéd view of how major business works, from a pretty typical notion of corporate monsters (obvious, but debatably accurate) to the apparent power of the individual underling to overthrow some despotic manager if they’re willing to stand up to the big boys (this relates to a particularly pathetic scene in the film). From my experience people aren‘t usually this brave/foolish, though quaint it is. Carter does go through his own personality development during the movie that strangely sees him traversing from over-the-top twat to all round reasonable dude with some sense. Maybe this is possible, but again in my experience assholes generally remain assholes. Despite a nagging feeling that In Good Company is masquerading to be something more than it really is, there is a likeable story partly disguising the old recycled ideas and it’s certainly something that I didn’t have a bad time watching.