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In Good Company

The modern workplace proves poignant and funny

By Patricia Ingold

In Good Company
Directed by Paul Weitz, starring Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid (Universal)

The new boss is not the same as the old boss. He looks like a junior photocopier salesperson, but thanks to a corporate takeover, 26-year-old Carter Duryea is Sports America magazine’s new head of advertising. There’s just one hitch: Carter knows nothing about advertising sales, so he shrewdly offers the man he replaced an opportunity to be his “wing man.” Swallowing his pride, financially strapped family man Dan Foreman has no choice but to accept.

At this point, we might expect In Good Company to unfold as an an audience-pleasing revenge comedy, but the film takes a different path. First, it’s hard not to like Carter. Second, it turns out that not all is well with him either, personally or professionally. His wife has left him, and to fill the void he rushes into an ill-advised affair with Dan’s 18-year-old daughter. His job performance is less than stellar, too. It’s only a matter of time before the two men reach common ground, with the decent, forgiving Dan becoming Carter’s mentor and father figure. Watching them get to that point is both amusing and poignant.

Writer/director Paul Weitz knows there’s nothing really funny about job loss. Lurking beneath the one-liners is a stinging indictment of the modern workplace. Weitz has done his homework, creating a frank view of middle-aged office workers threatened by cutbacks, and pressing the right buttons with scenes involving staff firings, sycophancy and office paranoia. Anyone who’s ridden the corporate merry-go-round will recognize the trappings of corporate culture — imperious executives, butchered English and inspirational bafflegab — and find it hard to suppress a smile.

The script strikes a nice balance between comedy and drama, and main actors Dennis Quaid (Dan) and Topher Grace (Carter) bring a rare level of humanity to the movie. In Good Company is nearly perfect until a major plot thread is resolved far too neatly. That misstep can be forgiven, however, because the ending soars, and in keeping with the rest of the film, is appropriately bittersweet.

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