In Good Company (2004) starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Philip Baker Hall, Selma Blair directed by Paul Weitz Movie Review

In Good Company (2004)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Dennis Quaid - In Good Company

Quaid is Saving Grace

When you watch "In Good Company" you realize how mainstream cinema has brainwashed us into expecting certain things and thinking certain ways. That may sound like a bold statement but "In Good Company" has a storyline which feels familiar, or at least when an advertising manager gets a boss who is young enough to be his son and who ends up dating his daughter you immediately get ideas of what is going to happen. But "In Good Company" isn't what you expect, this isn't some movie full of set piece comedy where by the end of the movie every one is living happily ever after, instead it is a movie about how funny life is, how awkward moments may break the tension and how things don't always end perfectly despite Hollywood liking us to believe otherwise. And in many ways "In Good Company" is not what you expect from writer and director Paul Weitz because previously he gave us "American Pie" and the frankly forgettable "Down to Earth".

Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid - The Day After Tomorrow) may get up before the crack of dawn for his job in advertising but he loves it nearly as much as he loves his wife and daughters. But his life is going to be shaken up when the sports magazine he works for is taken over by a huge conglomerate and in the shake up he is demoted from head of advertising to have Carter Duryea (Topher Grace - Mona Lisa Smile) brought in as his boss, a man half his age and with no real experience. Their methods of work are very different especially as Carter not only has to increase advertising spending but cut salary costs by letting members of Dan's team go. That's not Dan's only problem as his wife is pregnant and his eldest Alex (Scarlett Johansson - A Good Woman) is off to NYU meaning he needs his job to cover the second mortgage he is taking out. Could it be any worse, well it could when Dan discovers that the recently divorced Carter is now dating Alex making things extremely awkward for all involved.

Topher Grace and Scarlett Johansson - In Good Company

So as already mentioned "In Good Company" is not what you would necessary expect from a movie which is a drama, a comedy and a romance. It certainly has a storyline which wouldn't feel out of place in a mainstream comedy with Dan Foreman discovering that not only has he been demoted from head of advertising but his new boss is barely half his age. But rather than making this into a routine comedy writer and director Paul Weitz trawls human life for the funny moments, making the most of awkward moments to bring the laughs. So whilst there are several scenes in this movie which are prime for a set piece gag they never show, they never come instead we get something else, something more real to make us laugh such as Carter nervously spilling a drink over Dan. In fact the build up to that scene where Dan inadvertently invites Carter to dinner with his family is a prime example of the simple yet real comedy which constantly crops up through out "In Good Company".

And it's not just the humour which is not what you expect because along with this there is romance and drama as Carter starts to secretly date Dan's daughter. Now in many a romantic comedy what would happen is Dan would get annoyed, Carter and his daughter would split up but come the end of the movie they are back together and everything is peachy. But Weitz doesn't go for the expected, he doesn't deliver the happy ever after ending cliche which fill romantic comedies instead the outcome of this is almost ambiguous as he leaves us to make up are own minds as to how it all ends. That probably sounds weird, but in fact it is so much better than the norm because Weitz gives us enough details so that we can assume things without the need to give us everything, spoon feeding every detail as if we are morons incapable of thought.

On top of all this Weitz also adds an element of social depth as the storyline looks at the way corporate America has become with employees no longer being more than a name and a number on a payroll. It highlights how insular business has become, people going to work and doing their jobs but no longer bonding as a team, highlighting that it is a dog eat dog world. But this isn't hard hitting stuff, it's just the reality of corporate life shown in an amusing way which fits in with the entire style of the movie, making us laugh at reality.

As for the acting well there are a lot of good performances from David Paymer as the put upon Morty with a demanding wife through to Scarlett Johansson who gives Dan daughter Alex a mature head on a young body which makes her an interesting character especially when it comes to her relationship with Carter. But "In Good Company" very much belongs to Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace who not only create two very different characters but work so well together. It is their strange working relationship, the way Carter ends up looking up to Dan which really draws you into the story and their comic timing is so perfect especially with so much of the humour actually coming from life rather that gags.

What this all boils down to is that "In Good Company" is a pleasure to watch thanks to it taking what appears an obvious storyline then delivering something unexpected. It's by no means perfect and to be honest isn't what you would call great but it draws you into this tale of life and makes us smile at how funny it can be, those awkward moments which break the tension.