Friday 3 August 2018

Movie Review: In Good Company (2004)

A romantic comedy with a backdrop of whirlwind corporate politics, In Good Company competently delivers all the necessary ingredients for harmless entertainment without shining in any of them.

In New York, Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is the middle-aged head of the advertising team at leading magazine Sports America. Dan is happily married to Ann (Marg Helgenberger), and the father of two daughters including Alex (Scarlett Johansson). With Ann unexpectedly announcing  she is pregnant again and Alex heading off to NYU, financial pressures are mounting.

At work, a corporate takeover turns Dan's life upside down. He is demoted and asked to report to 26 year old Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), a smug young executive on the fast-track to success. Team layoffs and cutbacks follow, with Dan toiling to adapt to a boss half his age. But Carter himself is also struggling, unsure of what he is doing and with his marriage crumbling. Things get a lot more complicated when Carter and Alex start an intense relationship behind Dan's back.

Directed and written by Paul Weitz, In Good Company is a modestly successful lightweight comedy. A romance mixed with middle-age angst and company intrigue, plenty is going on at any one time, and Weitz invests enough in the characters of Dan, Carter and Alex to keep things interesting. Sparkling New York City locations and plenty of supporting characters provide depth and animation in the corners.

The story is more engaging than expected thanks to Dan and Carter being provided with an almost equal opportunity to occupy centre stage. Carter could have been relegated to a snotty and obnoxious young boss parachuted in by the new corporate parents, and indeed he starts off as just that. But Weitz is also interested in delving into the psyche of a young man and the insecurities eating away at his seemingly perfect life, and In Good Company is a much better movie for it.

Carter builds a romantic relationship with Alex but also, slowly, a working relationship with Dan, and gets to see corporate life from a new perspective. Meanwhile Dan is dealing with too many new things at once, and the film's wackiness and comic moments are derived from the sheer number of simultaneous crises that can be flung at one man.

The performances are steady without being spectacular, Quaid and Grace playing off each other as unlikely older guy-younger upstart competitor-buddies. Johansson, one year on from Lost In Translation, sticks closer to serious tones as a young woman tolerating her father's insecurities. David Paymer, Selma Blair, Philip Baker Hall and an uncredited Malcolm McDowell round out the cast.

In Good Company blows kisses up and down the corporate ladder, delivering a breezy attitude but not a lasting impression.

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