Thursday, March 06, 2014

"The Good Girl": Not the next best thing to "Catcher in the Rye", unless you think you're Holden

The Good Girl” sounds like an appropriate title for the 2002 film by Miguel Arteta as it opens, when retail clerk Justine (Jennifer Anniston) gets a lecture on joining Bible study from the security employee Comy (Mike White).  But soon Justine strikes up some chemistry with the stock boy Holden Worther (a larval Jake Gyllenhaal)  who considers himself to be a living Holden Caulfield. 

OK, Holden is a writer, and he does most of his stuff longhand, and he writes stories for specific people, which I don’t do (although I have specific people in mind in my fiction, and maybe that’s dangerous). And he can get physically passionate very quickly.  But the sex scenes in this film don’t make any progression, create any suspense, or really show much of anything.
I don’t know if J.D. Salinger really believed that down-and-out people should naturally fall in love with the passion shown here.  The problem is that it unravels.  Justine has a husband (John C. Reilly), you see, who may have more chest hair but doesn’t have very fertile sperm.  It isn’t hard to imagine where this can go.  Unfortunately, Holden allows his “hard luck” to drive his own character down, with some tragic results.  I don’t recall whether that really happens in “The Catcher and the Rye”.

But if you can't film "Catcher" for legal reasons (the estate's forbidding) you can make up your own Salinger-like stories.  I wish I created so much mystique as an author.   

The DVD transfer is not of the best quality, but the feature is copied onto both sides, with different special features (a gag on one side, deleted scenes and a brief alternate ending on the other).     

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