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« View from the Right | Main | Andrea del Sarto Redux »

August 23, 2002

"Good Girl" Re-redux

Friedrich --

Very curious about your observations about "The Good Girl." Mostly on the (perhaps dumb) level of: do they represent "Friedrich enjoyed the movie"? Or "Friedrich's too polite to tell Michael that he didn't enjoy the movie"?

Like you, I'm always a little suspicious of studiously blank directorial stances. It seems they almost always indicate a withholding-of-judgment that's really a judgment, usually one that boils down to a hipsterish "Ain't America weird." And maybe there's some of that in "The Good Girl," although I also sensed some fondness for the scene depicted. Did you?

I may have taken the film's psychology (and dramatic arc) a little differently than you did. I took it as a sly way of dramatizing exactly what you point out: that what all the Good Girl's actions finally demonstrate is that she wants a baby -- even though she's never known that that's what it's all been about. I also took the film to be saying, quietly, that she is a maneater, though appearances may be to the contrary. One of her men ends up dead, the other ends up humiliated, all so she can have herself a baby. I took her less as an empty person and more as a clueless one. So, perhaps unlike you, I thought the movie was pretty shrewd, in a deadpan kind of way.

But that's all a matter of interpretation. More basically, if idioticially, I found the movie's combo of observation, flakiness and satire-crossed-with-fondness pleasing. Most of the time, anyway. And hats off to the performers. I didn't know Anniston could do anything but wear a haircut. And usually I don't care for John C. Reilly; here I found him very touching.

Another poker-faced "nonjudgmental" working-class midAmerica movie that's worth seeing: "Normal Life," with Luke Perry (really good!) and the heavenly Ashley Judd. He's a cop, she's a sexy, trampy blue-collar girl he falls for and who turns out to be much more screwy than he anticipated.

In this case, the camera's blank face is judgmental -- working-class America is really being seen as a trash-strewn moonscape. Oddly, I didn't mind. The observations, the script, the (otherwise-good) directing (John McNaughton) and the acting got me over that hurdle.

I wonder, not for the first time, if I'm becoming old and jaded. I seem to have gotten to the point where I'll look at a film like "Normal Life" (or, say, a Jim Jarmusch film -- although I can't stand Hal Hartley), and just think, Oh, it's one of those. And I'll try to take it (and see what's there to be gotten from it) as an example of its hipster genre. Maybe I've grown wiser. Maybe I'm just tired.

Ashley in glam mode

Did I ever mention that the wife and I once met Ashley Judd? For about five minutes. Ashley was glamorous and charming; she gave off warm down-home vibes as well as pure actress-confetti. The wife liked her, I think. And I was charmed -- not that my judgment of her performances would ever be affected, or anything like that, of course.



posted by Michael at August 23, 2002


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