Movie Reviews
1:05 pm
Tue August 20, 2002

The Good Girl

"The Good Girl" and Anniston do a remarkable job of depicting the lost life,...

In "The Good Girl," Jennifer Anniston plays a clerk at the Retail Rodeo in a remote part of Texas; her life is as second-rate as the makeup she sells and the preaching the manager pushes over the public address system, like a farewell song to a deceased employee-"I'll be Seeing You in All the Old familiar Places." Her husband is a big, slobby, brain-fried house painter (played deftly by the likeable John C. Reilly), her coworker died from bad blackberries, a younger man seduces her, and her TV doesn't work right. She rightfully hates her life.

I am fascinated by the television-addicted working class, at least as depicted in films, because I can't believe anyone could watch that much TV or drink that much beer. Apparently some do, and in so doing they get my full sympathy for any boredom-cracking activity like being an adulterer or stealing from the owner. For Reilly and his trailer-trash buddy, Bubba (played perfectly by John Carroll Lynch), drinking and toking on the couch in front of the TV is a life worth living.

Because ven the working class must pay their dues (the upper classes call it "tragedy"), Anniston does an admirable job of showing how banal that punishment is. Each day in the Rodeo is a Dantean ring of hell, each act of defiance is inarticulate, and the actress is not about to overact to get the point across. In fact, the acting is the film's strength: each character's secret anguish is never revealed but pasted on a smile or a glance. Playing the opposite of her privileged TV character, Anniston shows a range that should dispel any doubts about her ability to morph into a film star.

Director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White (both from "Chuck and Buck") tell a little story of little people caught in a nowhere existence. Just don't expect dialogue to lift it to your level of understanding because the fate of the cowboys and cowgirls at this "rodeo" is as inscrutable as it is depressing. "The Good Girl" and Anniston do a remarkable job of depicting the lost life, briefly raised from boredom, and quickly tossed back into the ring for another battering round with a careless destiny.