Justine is thirty years old and works as a discount store clerk in Texas. Deeply unhappy in her marriage to a man who is infertile because of a dope-smoking habit, Justine soon begins an affair with Holden, the store's newly hired cashier and becomes pregnant. Holden, who has serious issues of his own, steals money from the store's safe for the two of them to run away, but the plan is short-lived when it takes a tragic turn for the worse.
Miguel Arteta's crooked comedy of manners is like a Bette Davis melodrama directed by Luis Buñuel: ambition and heartache with a poisonous undercurrent of anti-bourgeois absurdity. And it's a winner, helped along by a no-frills performance by Jennifer Aniston as the soul-sick cashier Justine. When Justine stares into the big, droopy eyes of Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), a new employee who wears his voluble, depressive air like the Red Badge of Courage, she's enchanted. In his early 20's and still living at home, Holden is smitten by Justine's worldliness, even though when he tells her he was named after the protagonist of "The Catcher in the Rye," she asks if his name is Catcher. "The Good Girl" is like a neurotically charged post-millennial take on the trailer-park comedies that Jonathan Demme once claimed for himself. — Elvis Mitchell
2002-08-07 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of The Good Girl