• Publication date: November 1, 2010

A New Beginning, or the Beginning of the End? The Good Girl: Finding Meaning by Breaking All the Rules

Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston) is an ordinary housewife living in rural Texas. Her husband, Phil (John C. Reilly) is a painter by profession, though not a terribly motivated one. Most of his free time is spent smoking marijuana with his best pal, Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson). Bubba practically idolizes Phil, and subsequently Justine doesn't have much private time with her husband.

Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston) is an ordinary housewife living in rural Texas. Her husband, Phil (John C. Reilly) is a painter by profession, though not a terribly motivated one. Most of his free time is spent smoking marijuana with his best pal, Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson). Bubba practically idolizes Phil, and subsequently Justine doesn't have much private time with her husband.

During the day she works at the fictional 'Retail Rodeo,' a department store of an even lower pedigree than a typical K-Mart or Wal-Mart. Her coworkers are Corny (Mike White) and Gwen (Deborah Rush). The former is a Bible-thumping nut who constantly warns Justine of eternal damnation, while the later is an unhealthily perky makeup girl who gets her jollies by inserting subliminal insults over the store's PA system.

Needless to say Justine's life is mundane at best � at least until a new cashier joins the Rodeo's staff: Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), a manchild in his early 20s who's unusually obsessed with J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye. While the cashier's real name is Thomas Worther he instead adopts the moniker of the book's lead protagonist, Holden Caulfield, a young man alienated from society's hypocrisy and mediocrity.

Naturally Justine can identify with Holden, who insists that Thomas is his 'slave name.' Both are searching for an escape from life's tediousness, and both eventually gain solace by rebelling against conformity � even if only in private. Indeed, the secretive aspect of their relationship adds to its excitement. A friendship that began with casual conversation in the checkout lane morphed into daily lunch, which in turn led to hookups in seedy hotels, and eventually to no less than two irreversible, particularly dim events.

Yet what about Phil, who despite his shortcomings is a caring husband who means no harm? At one point viewers discover that he too is jaded by life, and abuses drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Is Holden really a breath of fresh air in Justine's life, or merely an overly simplistic and immature response to an existential crisis that nearly all men and women eventually encounter? Should Justine learn to be content with both Retail Rodeo and Phil, or follow Holden down an undoubtedly exciting, but potentially destructive and emotionally daunting path?

The Good Girl marked Aniston's departure from the upbeat characters and topics of her former endeavors such as Friends and Office Space, proving that she is easily capable of more somber and dramatic roles. Anniston's performance earned her a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actress alongside 3 additional nominations. While this independent effort earned just $16.8 million it was not a failure considering its mere $5 million budget. Critical response to the film was incredibly positive with very few exceptions.

Showing On: MBC MAX

Year: 2002

Duration: 93 minutes

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Starring:

Jennifer Aniston

Jake Gyllenhaal

John C. Reilly

Tim Blake

Zooey Deschanel

Mike White

Director: Miguel Arteta

Rating: Rated R for sexuality, some explicit language, and drug use.