PARK CITY 2002: Southern-Fried Ennui: Aniston and Arteta Go Down South in "The Good Girl"

by Andy Bailey

(indieWIRE/01.14.02) -- Since he debuted at Sundance in 1997 with "Star Maps," Miguel Arteta has proven himself a savvy director of actors with a keen insight into the behavioral tics of restless outsiders who long for better lives. This year, he returns to the festival for a third time with "The Good Girl," a bittersweet comedy-drama about a small town Texas retail worker grappling with an unhappy marriage.

There's something underwhelming about "The Good Girl," a much quieter and soulful beast than Arteta's previous feature, the raw and malicious "Chuck & Buck." In his third outing with screenwriter Mike White, the director has created the cinematic equivalent of a Lucinda Williams lament, in which ennui and humor collide with the emotional and sexual longings of a certain breed of Southern-fried lonely heart. While "The Good Girl" doesn't always work, its top-notch heartfelt performances and crackpot humor should be enough to satisfy discerning audiences.

Jennifer Aniston plays Justine, an bored 30-year-old who whiles away her days working at the local Retail Rodeo, a banal strip mall variety store peppered with a slew of quirky co-workers, including feisty motormouth Gwen (Deborah Rush), the sadistic Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel) and a fundamentalist security guard named Corny (Mike White), who tries to lure Justine to bible study class. Stalled at an emotional crossroads and pining for motherhood, Justine endures an unsatisfying marriage to an infertile, layabout house painter named Phil (John C. Reilly), who spends most of time his plopped on the couch, smoking joints and watching television with his best friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson).

Nothing much happens at the Rodeo