In Good Company

Movie Review by Dan Spiers

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger
Director: Paul Weitz

Written and directed by Paul Weiz, IN GOOD COMPANY is a witty critique of the sale, acquisition, merger madness effecting corporate America, and the destabilizing effect this endless cycle has on the lives of employees.

In his position as Head of Ad Sales at Sports America magazine in New York, Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), is a contented man. Until, that is, his company is bought by Globecom, and he is displaced by Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), a phosphorescent-faced, barely-pubic prodigy, with less than no experience in ad sales.

Whilst both men are disorientated at work, Carter by his jet propelled promotion, Dan by his impromptu demotion, they have in common personal lives beset by difficulty. Carter’s seven-month marriage has collapsed, leaving loneliness the only discernable feature of his office and apartment. Dan has a pregnant wife, Ann (Marg Helgenberg) and a daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson) whose college education in NYU is forcing him to re-mortgage the family home.

IN GOOD COMPANY is all about cycles of life, from the death of a marriage, to the birth of a child, from the beginning of a relationship to the end of a career. And the key to its success is that what shines through is not the cynicism and power-lust of Globecom, but the warmth and vitality of human relationships.

The movie benefits from a series of excellent performances. Quaid portrays a complex character with deceptive ease, balancing Dan’s vulnerability and exasperation at the aging process with his determination to continue supporting a family he adores. What is striking about Topher Grace, is the confidence, rhythm and style with which he handles Carter’s dialogue. He has an almost lyrical delivery befitting a salesman and though this is due to a fantastic script, it also marks out a performer of genuine potential.

Both men are ably assisted by Scarlett Johansson. Luminous, voluminous and voluptuous, she has a striking screen presence, but for all her forthright beauty, tends to play parts with an emotional reserve that leads to intrigue. You are never quite sure what her choices will be. Will she have an affair with Carter? Is the affair of substance or a passing fancy? Life is full of possibilities and in Alex we have a character increasingly aware of them and excited by the prospect of living them out.

The joy of IN GOOD COMPANY is that the characters are well enough developed to continue living their lives after the credits roll. Weitz has produced a movie full of insight and humour, which charts the emotional assault course of human experience without ever losing its innate sense of optimism. For anybody stuck in an office wrestling with the pretentiousness of their company’s ‘mission statement’, this is of benefit and indeed reassuring, for you do not struggle alone.

4 out of 6 stars

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