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In Good Company

January 11th, 2005 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Grace Hill Media made good on their promise to buy tickets to In Good Company for the Los Angeles based bloggers who responded to their promotion (they excluded us from the grand prize because the movie is already showing in LA).

I’m too tired to write up my own summary, so I’ll use this one:

Quaid plays Dan Foreman, a 52-year-old ad sales exec absorbing double shock waves: No sooner has his pre-menopausal wife announced she is pregnant with their third child, than his company shifts into drastic downsize mode.

Adding insult to the injury of his precarious job status, Dan must now report to a kid half his age. New company hope Carter Duryea (Topher Grace) doesn’t have much in the way of leadership experience, but he talks the talk better than anyone around and can crack up a high-end Porsche with the best of them.

The resentful and insecure Dan doesn’t know that the new boss is skating on pretty thin ice himself. Despite votes of confidence from the big boys, Carter is nervous in the service of his newfound power and reeling from the breakup of a 7-month-marriage. Could anything ratchet up the crosscurrents of anxiety any further? Throw lovelorn Carter into an elevator with Dan’s comely daughter Alex (Johansson), and watch the sap rise.

After an excellent discussion with Keith, I am convinced that what initially appears as a serious lack of passion and tension is actually one of the film’s greatest strengths. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon laments that “Weitz’s “In Good Company” is so gentle-spirited it nearly slides off the screen.” Indeed, the rather commonplace and slightly predictable events that frame the movie (corporate downsizing, the tension between the “new business” and the “old”, an unexpected pregnancy) make it seem as though the viewer has been thrust in upon nothing more than real life.

However, the subtleties of life are not beyond the reach of satire. Weitz seems to make the corporate players caricatures, placing them in juxtaposition to the rather normal and “functional” Foreman family. The “love story” sub-plot seems rather contrived, but it has the effect of making the immaturity of youth that much more poignant. Carter and Alex’s “love scene” is so awkward that it’s laughable. One can’t help but get the feeling that Weitz is satirizing the immature approach to relationships that Alex and Carter both share.

The movie eventually “abandons its satire of corporate culture to focus on male bonding”, which Dennis Lim sees as an act of “bad faith.” However, herein lies the virtue of the film–by abandoning the satire as Carter matures, Weitz seems to point toward an “honorable” way of life as the goal, and does so through circumstances that will resonate with many of the members of his audience. As opposed to a dynamic and passionate plot of, say, Romeo and Juliet, this movie draws out of the commonplace humor and sentimentality (in the finest sense of the word!) , making it accessible and enjoyable for any adult viewer.

Finally, the ironic moment of the night came in the second scene, where (paraphrased) someone in Carter’s company suggests, “It’s a new business world and we have to learn new strategies to keep up.” Grace Hill Media has managed to do just that.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.