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The Good Girl

Of all the "Friends," Jennifer Aniston seems to have made the best deal with the devil. Because in addition to getting $1 million per episode to star in a top-rated TV show (nabbing an Emmy for it to boot) and saying "I do" to an apparently blissful marriage to Brad Pitt, she's actually managed to squeeze in some better-than-average big-screen projects. Unlike her Must-See pals, she's eschewed monkey movies (Matt LeBlanc's Ed), formulaic romantic comedies (Matthew Perry's Fools Rush In), and slasher pics (Courteney Cox's Scream trilogy) in favor of cult comedies like Office Space and The Good Girl. As written by indie "it" scribe Mike White and directed by Miguel Arteta, the latter is a wistful exploration of life's choices; thanks to Aniston, it resonates as both a comedy and a detailed character study. Aniston stars as Justine Last, a 30-year-old dreamer who's fed up with her go-nowhere job giving makeovers at the dismal Retail Rodeo, a sort of low-rent K-Mart in a generic southern town. Life at home isn't much better — Justine's husband, Phil (the always-excellent John C. Reilly), hangs out on the sofa every night with his buddy Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson), getting high and watching TV. To Justine, it feels like all of her chances have passed her by; then she meets Holden (up-and-comer Jake Gyllenhaal), a 22-year-old whose dark eyes reveal the same pain and frustration Justine is struggling with. The two misfits are drawn to each other — an attraction that quickly snowballs into a complicated situation Justine isn't really prepared to handle. It's a slice-of-independent-film-life that mixes dark laughs (many provided by Reilly and Zooey Deschanel as subversively defiant Retail Rodeo employee Cheryl) with poignant moments, offering Aniston and Gyllenhaal the kind of juicy roles Serious Actors dream of. Yes, some of the dialogue is too good to be true, and yes, it's a bit of an easy out to make Justine the victim of a dead-end job in a dead-end town (if she'd been an executive or an artist facing the same crisis, the turn of events might have been a little less expected), but The Good Girl is the kind of thoughtful film that sticks with you because of its smallness and intimacy. Fox's double-sided DVD doesn't disappoint — the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer (a fullscreen version is also available) is strong, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is clear as a bell (other audio options include Spanish Surround and English and Spanish subtitles). On the widescreen side of the disc, the extras list includes nine deleted scenes (all worth watching, as some help flesh out the film's plot points), an alternate ending montage, scene-specific commentary by Aniston, and a sedate (even somnolent) full-length track from Arteta and White; the full-screen side sports the commentaries and a brief gag reel. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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