In Good Company
Thinking ahead to what my future career might bring me is among the few things that can consume me with instantaneous anxiety. I’m aware that I’m not alone in experiencing this phenomenon — most people my age are nervous to think about the person they might become in a decade — but I consistently ponder what adulthood will consist of. Once I graduate from college, will the transition from an academic life to a vocational one be smooth? Will it be slow and treacherous? Or will it, perhaps, be nothing like what I’d thought it would be?
For In Good Company’s Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), such crippling doubts have never much crossed his mind. A jewel of his business school, no obstacle has ever proven to be too big for him. There’s an unmistakable twinkle in his eye. And who can blame him? Only twenty-six, he’s married to a beautiful brunette (Selma Blair), has just gotten a high ranking job at an advertising agency, and is exactly where he was hoping to be at this point in his life.
Things can’t go wrong — or can they? As it turns out, they can. After seven months, his wife leaves him. Minutes after buying a brand-new Porsche to reward himself for his hard work, he’s T-boned by a passing car. Worst of all, his job isn’t the cushy, exciting one he thought it was going to be; while he quickly makes his way to the top of Sports America, the company he’s been hired by, his preachings of synergy clash with several of his new employees. His age is a slight irritant, his middle-aged colleagues surprised they have to respond to a wonder boy with much less experience than them.
One such irritated worker is Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), Sports America’s head of sales. Supporting a wife (Marg Helgenberger), two daughters (Scarlett Johansson, Zena Gray), and a baby on the way, it’s a blow to his self-esteem and fiscal stability when he is demoted to the role of Dan’s “wingman” after years of believing he had secured his place in corporate life. It doesn’t help that Alex (Johansson), his eldest, plans to go to NYU, thinking her father is still able to financially back her with ease.
So one could say such transitions, both personally and professionally, are hard on both of these men, who are collocated in their dilemmas but match in their privileged anxiety. Regardless, a friendship manages to blossom between the two, Dan becoming a mentor of sorts for the overwhelmed Carter. But their kinship could end dramatically when Carter begins secretly dating Alex.
As a romance, a comedy, or a romantic comedy (the film doesn’t stand by any specific genre norms, as most bright dramedies manage), In Good Company is almost disarmingly conventional; it presents nothing new and is without much of an edge. But likability, an aspect prevalent in movies of its type, is unavoidable. Written and directed by Paul Weitz (About a Boy, Grandma), a filmmaker who knows a thing or two about geniality, it’s a corporate charmer of great affability, juggling subtle poignancy with amiable performances that shine in their humanity (Grace and Quaid are perfectly cast, Johansson a sharp love interest).
But while it’s snappy, sweet without being sappy, I’m not so sure In Good Company is much more than just keen escapism; it’s apt, but it’s also too comfortably pleasant. Risks aren’t something we expect to see within films like this, yet the good-nature of it all begs for some sort of game-changing turn. There’s nothing not to like here. But such a characteristic is sort of bland, no? B-