Sunday, September 21, 2014

In Good Company

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/14/05 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.

Written and directed by Paul Weitz, In Good Company is a lighthearted comedy about a 51-year old ads salesman for a top sports magazine who has been demoted after a corporate shakeup and buy when he's forced to work under an inexperienced, 26-year old man. With a new child due, tuition to be paid for his older daughter at NYU, and a second mortgage taken out, the old man is in a tough position in his life while seeing colleagues being fired. Meanwhile, his younger boss is dealing with his own insecurities, failed marriage, and trying to impress his corporate bosses while dating his employee's daughter. A wonderful examination of the corporate world, Weitz delivers a smart and sweet film that works on most levels only to be hit hard with his own ideals. Starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Philip Baker Hall, Clark Gregg, Selma Blair, John Cho, and Malcolm McDowell. In Good Company is an enjoyable yet compelling film from Paul Weitz.

For the 51-year old Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), his life seems to be charmed until he hears rumors that his Sports America magazine company might be bought by the conglomerate Globecom owned by billionaire Teddy K. (Malcolm McDowell). After a trip to meet with his client and friend Eugene Kalb (Philip Baker Hall), he goes home to learn that his wife Ann (Marg Helgenberger) is pregnant with a third child. Already having two children with Jana (Zena Grey) and college-bound tennis prodigy Alex (Scarlett Johansson), a third child might seem to calm him. Instead, Sports America is bought with his fellow colleagues including Morty (David Paymer) worrying about being fired. Then Dan learns that he's going to be demoted by a young 26-year old cell phones salesman in Carter Duryea (Topher Grace) who is also working along with Globecom man Steckle (Clark Gregg). Dan learns that his old office will now be Carter after he meets him.

The stress couldn't be worse for Dan when he learns that Alex has been accepted to NYU meaning that he's forced to take out a second mortgage and pay for his daughter's tuition. With Alex now moving to the NYU dorm, Dan's new life under as a wingman for Carter is going to be tough, especially with fellow colleagues being let go, including best friend Morty. Carter's life meanwhile is also falling apart as his wife of seven months Kimberley (Selma Blair) is leaving him forcing Carter to live in an apartment and sometimes at the office. After a last-minute meeting on a Sunday, Carter invites himself to eat at Dan's house where he sees Alex as the two begin a conversation.

With Carter instigating a plan for "synergy" to mix products that have nothing to do with each other like computers in a sports magazine, Dan couldn't help but give in to Carter's energetic attitude. One day, Carter bumps into Alex as the two have another heart-to-heart conversation that suddenly leads to a secretive romance forcing Alex to not talk to her father for a while. Dan becomes suspicious, even when his business life is turned upside down after a concert meeting with one of Carter's colleagues (John Cho) where Dan couldn't do business with another person due to corporate rivalry. With Carter and Alex's romancing blossoming, Dan becomes more suspicious that leads to an emotional confrontation. Even with Dan's life falling apart, Carter is forced to grow up to see what has been going on, even as Teddy K. visits where he is forced to learn about the soulless world of corporate conglomerates.

While In Good Company doesn't have the emotional strength of About a Boy, Paul Weitz deserves credit for going into that deep world of corporations and conglomerates including a heavy scene with Malcolm McDowell that almost suggest something of an evil movement. Weitz's study of the corporate world and morals is very spot-on but his idealism in the third act isn't very realistic since the corporate world isn't very nice at all. The subplots involving the Alex/Carter romance and the situation involving David Paymer's characters are well-written for the script since it gives the movie a new sense of energy and pace to Weitz's direction that is very dead-on in the situations of comedy and drama.

The film is masterfully presented to Weitz's lighthearted approach to the film with a lot of credit to the cinematography of Remi Adefarasin who brings a lovely, colorful look to the film with help from production designer William Arnold and art directors Sue Chan and Fred Kolo for its detailed look of corporate buildings. With Molly Maginnis doing great work on the costume design, notably for Johansson's character, the film looks great without being too superficial. The editing by Myron Kerstein is very well-paced, notably the meeting of Carter and Dan that is almost like a scene from Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly. The film's score by Hedwig & the Angry Inch composer Stephen Trask is very lighthearted to the film's tone with music by Peter Gabriel, the Soundtrack of Our Lives, and David Byrne.

The film carries some wonderful performances in smaller roles from Colleen Camp, Zena Grey, John Cho, Selma Blair, and the always-brilliant Malcolm McDowell in his devilish role as Teddy K. Clark Gregg is excellent as the corporate brown-noser Steckle who worships at the altar of Teddy K. Philip Baker Hall is excellent in his brief role along with Marg Helgenberger who provides some of the comedy and dramatic foil for Quaid's home life. The film's real standout in the supporting cast goes to David Paymer in a role many can sympathize with since he’s a guy who is trying to work hard in his business while we feel sorry for him when he's fired, especially in a tough scene that included a post-firing scene with Quaid that balances comedy and drama though it would've been nice to see him more.

Scarlett Johansson delivers a charming, marvelous performance as Alex. Instead of making her into a typical girl who goes after a guy, Johansson brings some depth to her character early on when she seeks love for her scenes with Grace while as she develops, she learns of the sacrifices her father had to make in a very poignant scene. Johansson proves herself again to be a very smart, capable actress who can shine in tricky situations though, in the third act following a scene with Grace was very unnecessary.

Topher Grace is the film's real breakthrough as the caffeine-addicted, energetic Carter Duryea with his ambitious ideas and immature state of mind that caused the failure of his marriage. Grace could've been a real villain but he gives his character sympathy and depth as a young man trying to find himself through romances and business while he has greater scenes with the veteran Quaid. Dennis Quaid delivers another masterful performance as Dan Foreman with his wise insight into the business world and family life as he becomes a fraternal figure for the naive Grace while having some great, tender moments with Helgenberger and Johansson while dealing with the anguish and stress of the new chapter in his life.

***Updated 5/22/05-DVD Tidbits***

The Regional 1 DVD of In Good Company includes the usual Anamorphic 1:85:1 Widescreen format (for those who want to see the film in widescreen) along with Spanish and French subtitles. Also included in its Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound is French and Spanish dubbing. While the DVD features in the film are minimal, it's substantial enough for those who enjoy the film. Included with a filmography section for cast members Dennis Quaid, Scarlett Johansson, Topher Grace, Marg Helgenberger, and David Paymer along with the Weitz brothers and executive producers Rodney Liber and Andrew Miano. Overall, there's only three big features on the DVD.

First is a seven-part, 30 minute documentary segment called Synergy that interviews several cast and crew members where they talk about the film locations, the atmosphere of Corporate America and how young corporate businessmen want the knowledge of older businessmen and the father-son relationships. Director Paul Weitz talks about the editing of the film how originally, it ran nearly three hours as he and editor Myron Kerstein talk about trying to rid of some scenes. In the interviews with the cast, one segment was for Quaid and Helgenberger about life in middle-age life while Grace and Johansson talk about why they did the film where Johansson felt the film had sentimental references to her own relationship with her dad.

The film includes several deleted scenes that were cut out for length reasons as well as emotional reasons from Paul Weitz's commentary. Some scenes involved some funnier moments with Quaid, Paymer, and Kevin Chapman as another colleague who bring some of the humor to Quaid's business lifestyle. Along with scenes of Quaid playing golf and dealing with the corporate merging, he's the real star in the deleted scenes. One includes a confrontation with Grace about Grace's relationship with Johansson and another is when Grace's character forgots about an early meeting. Grace too has his moments in the deleted scenes where one scene is him, feeling sick after firing someone and another when he tries to call Selma Blair. The best deleted scene that I felt shouldn't have been cut is a scene where Quaid tries to dye his hair to look younger and the result is extremely hilarious.

The feature-length commentary from Paul Weitz and Topher Grace is wonderfully entertaining with Weitz explaining why he wanted to do a film about corporate synergy and his own take on the father-son relationship. He also explains his intentions of the film, including the much-aligned third act which he admit, he struggled a bit on how to end it. With Grace helping in the commentary, the two talk about New York and Grace's own feelings about the film since he feels very close to it because his dad is in the same corporate atmosphere as well. Both men also do a lot of praising for some scenes as well as praise for their actors, notably Quaid, Johansson, and Paymer, who Weitz wished wanted more of.

***End of DVD Tidbits***

Despite an unrealistic, uneven third act, In Good Company soars as a very good film with very good morals and insight into Corporate America. Paul Weitz makes a film that is funny and poignant in his messages with great performances from Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, and Malcolm McDowell. While the film shows a promise into Weitz's maturity as a writer, it is clear that he's a director and writer with some talent who could make a great comedy. In Good Company is an excellent film from Paul Weitz.

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

Interesting cast here and the subject matter is intriguing enough though Dennis Quaid is a bit of hit and miss to me. Scarlett did show a sign of greatness even at an early age, I think I first saw her in Horse Whisperer when she's just in her teens.

thevoid99 said...

It is still a good film as I think it sort of holds up as does Scarlett's performance which shows why she is so good. The Horse Whisperer is one of her finest yet it's the film she did 2 years before that in Manny & Lo where she really made people notice.