In Good Company

In this youth-obsessed culture, where turnover is privileged over tenure, and innovation often wins out over loyalty, it can’t feel good to be deemed a dinosaur. Whether it’s high-net worth salesmen on Wall Street busting their asses just to compete with the new recruits or forties-ish actresses getting pumped with Botox to stay in the running for the plum sex symbol roles, the fall from up-and-comer to old hat comes fast and hard. Eventually, everyone must step aside and let the “young Turks” take over, and by all accounts, the transition isn’t easy. In Good Company, the new film by Paul Weitz, examines this quandary in sympathetic detail.

In Good Company stars Dennis Quaid, who—after this and 2002’s The Rookie—brings a craggy soulfulness to being over the hill.The film finds Quaid’s Dan, the leader of ad sales for a successful Sports Illustrated-type magazine, demoted when a corporate buyout ushers in a new wave of outside talent. In his place sits Carter (That 70s Show’s Topher Grace), a clueless fast-tracker who’s made a name for himself hawking cell phones to the under-5 demographic.Dan sniffs out Carter’s greenness, and the two circle each other warily until orders come from above for Carter to make cuts on the bottom line.

As the biting BBC sitcom The Office showed, people in England are not “fired” or “laid off,” they are “made redundant.” It’s a phrase that Dan, who takes offense at Carter’s use of buzzword euphemisms, would appreciate.With the largest salary on the staff, Dan naturally assumes he’ll be first to go.Carter spares the old-timer, but nominates him “wingman,” smugly mixing his boys-club mentality with cocky power-brokering (“Hey, Dan, at least you still have a job”). But when Carter’s shrill young wife (played, once again, by Selma Blair.Can someone cast this poor thing in a well-written, three-dimensional role for once?) leaves him, the tables turn and it’s Dan’s turn to pity the new kid.He takes him into his home, which opens up a can of worms that, without giving too much away, might well be called “the Scarlett Johansson sub-plot.”

Now a million miles away from the gross-out comedy American Pie that launched his career, Weitz continues to make smart, funny movies that parse out the neuroses of the male species.And where 2002’s About A Boy dealt with the pampered rich kid who’s never had to work a day in his life, his new film is about the other side of the tracks, where a person’s status and value is measured by the job he holds.Originally titled Synergy (the film’s best scene involves Carter choking in his first board meeting, until he begins to frantically brainstorm the various products they can cross-advertise, thanks to the wonders of corporate parenting), this is a film about balancing work and life.Weitz is aware that men of Quaid’s generation calibrate their self-worth according to their jobs in a way that twentysomethings entering the workforce today probably cannot or will not.To his credit, he treats both attitudes with the respect they deserve (Topher Grace is a charming bumbler, but his earnest Carter wins out at the end). Affecting even in its predictability, In Good Company is a movie very much of its time.

Jesse Paddock

image