The Good Girl

Stuck mostly in Hollywood spew, from Leprechaun to Rock Star, the underrated Jennifer Aniston seizes this Sundance-kissed indie to show she's more than just hair, boobs, Mrs. Brad Pitt and Rachel. Mission accomplished, though we see nothing wrong with Rachel's sexily lopsided smile. As Justine Last, a Texas flower wilting on the vine of a dull marriage to Phil (John C. Reilly), a pothead house painter, and a duller job riding the cash register at the local Retail Rodeo, Aniston is remarkable playing someone who's not remarkable at all. She eases into the role without overdoing the character's desperation or dowdiness. Better yet, she gets laughs without slipping into the sitcom rhythms to which screenwriter Mike White and director Miguel Arteta — collaborators on the wonderfully perverse Chuck and Buck — seem commendably allergic.

What passes for plot is the fuckfest Justine begins with jailbait Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), the hottie cashier whose obsession with The Catcher in the Rye leads to violence beyond the literary kind. Given that setup, the sex could have been juicier. There are times when The Good Girl is so low-key it damn near flatlines. Luckily, White creates compelling characters with a few deft brush strokes. The actors fill in the rest. Besides Aniston, the ever-excellent Reilly and the up-and-coming Gyllenhaal (his Donnie Darko has spawned a video cult), there are pungent turns from Tim Blake Nelson as Phil's lecherous pal, Zooey Deschanel as Justine's nut-job co-worker and White himself as a Bible-toting security guard. It's a creepy, funny, steamy, oddly touching movie — just the thing to bury Rachel.

From The Archives Issue 903: August 22, 2002