With all the gloom and doom in the world right now, sometimes it’s nice to have a well-made, well-acted, well-meaning film come along to sweep you away for about two hours. That’s exactly what In Good Company is, and that’s exactly what it does.
Dennis Quaid is Dan Foreman, a weathered ad salesman for the popular Sports American magazine. They are a parent company of a giant conglomerate run by the malicious Teddy K (an uncredited Malcolm McDowell). Things have been shaky at the office of late, as people are consistently being laid off and moved around. Being the head of his department, Dan doesn’t feel he has a whole lot to worry about.
But oh does he. In an effort for the company to keep up with the technological times, Dan is demoted and his position is filled by a young up-and-comer named Carter Buryea (Grace). He’s so good that he can sell the idea of a cell phone for five-year-olds.
Dan is shocked that he has been replaced by such a young newbie, but Carter immediately recognizes that Dan knows what he is doing. He decides to keep him around as his “wingman” in the midst of all the firings and layoffs.
Things start to get a bit hairy, however. Carter, while successful, has never had a family who has cared about him. He has just divorced after seven months of marriage because he cannot devote enough time to a spouse or girlfriend. He is lonely at heart.
One night he winds up at Dan’s house for dinner and he sees what a loving family Dan has. His wife, Ann (Helgenberger), is pregnant with another child, while his first daughter, Alex (Johansson), is showing a lot of promise both on the tennis court and as a student at NYU. Alex also immediately falls for Carter.
From there the story goes in a million directions. Dan’s trying to keep his job, Carter and Alex are trying to keep their relationship a secret, the big boss is due in at the company, and Ann is due with the baby at any second.
This is hardly groundbreaking material, but the superb acting, brilliant writing, and exemplary direction push this story to a whole new level.
Dennis Quaid, who has been quite busy in 2004, is absolutely perfect as Dan, a man who seemingly has what every man dreams of, but is depending upon a man who is young enough to be his son to help him keep it. Topher Grace is an absolute revelation as the feisty, but determined Carter. He exudes charisma and confidence is a major role, while at the same time being downright hilarious in many scenes. Scarlett Johansson is quickly becoming one of the most dependable actresses in Hollywood, and this is another solid role for her. She captures the smart and vulnerable Alex to a T. A steadfast supporting cast led by Marg Helgenberger rounds out the top-notch performances all around.
You can have all the great actors you want, but it’s the source material that ultimately makes a film. Writer/Director Paul Weitz does a spectacular job of molding this story together, and he has given us some of the most likable characters in recent memory. There are no throwaway stereotypes here, just well-rounded characters that resemble personalities that we come in contact with everyday. Weitz’s camera is content with being idle a lot of the time and letting the acting take center stage. He comes up with some excellent shots of the New York City area and gives the film its own feel.
In Good Company is coming around at just the right time in a month that is normally reserved for big studio throwaway pictures. This is a positive, funny, well-made film that is sure to please.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 109 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content and drug references.
Theatrical Release: December 29, 2004 (Limited) / January 14, 2005 (Wide)
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Written by: Paul Weitz
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Clark Gregg