It's a rare film that gets dads right. Or even bothers trying. The new film In Good Company has such a dad. It helps that heís played by Dennis Quaid, an actor who can make grown men want to firmly shake his hand, give grown women a giddy schoolgirl crush, and be the kind of authority figure a child would sorely hate to disappoint.
Quaid plays Dan Foreman, a veteran ad sales director for a Sports Illustrated type magazine. It's something of a dream job and dad has something of a dream life, with the lovely Marg Helgenberger for a wife and two teenage daughters who are not insufferable, including Scarlett Johansson as the eldest, about to enter college and actually concerned about the cost of tuition. Dan is a dapper 51 year old working in the thick of Manhattan, but everything about him reeks of an Old School even older than his years; from Dan's low-key sales pitch, to the slightly dog-eared employees he hires to his Leave It To Beaver house in the suburbs. Everything in the set-up leaves us waiting for reality to cruelly tap him on the shoulder. It comes in the form of 26 year old Carter Duryea, played by Topher Grace, the kind of corporate fast-tracker who looks at a toddler without his own cell phone and sees nothing but opportunity. Carter is being groomed for bigger and better things in his multi-tentacled parent corporation, and the first test is taking over ad sales for the newly acquired sports magazine. Before you can say "proactive synergy" Dan Foreman has surrendered his job, his office and his dignity to a highly caffinated young hotshot who knows nothing of the business. What little is left for Dan remains hanging by a thread. This takes some of the bloom off the rose when his wife informs him she's pregnant.
Dan Foreman isnít exactly Wily Loman and we don't imagine him ever going hungry. Yet Quaid invites both sympathy and respect for the job of family provider. What more humiliation must he swallow to protect his income? How does it feel to become old virtually overnight? What father of Scarlett Johansson could watch her leave the nest and NOT want to follow after her with a shotgun? This generally sweet and believable slice of life is brought to us by writer/director Paul Weitz, who along with producer brother Chris is responsible for the American Pie films and About a Boy. In Good Company could be titled About A Dad. Except it isn't so much. Dad has a lot to go through, a lot to reclaim and a lot to let go, but the film soon latches on to Carter Duryea and lets him be the catalyst for personal transformation. Topher Grace does a lot of nice things here, going beyond the capable script and turning the comic affectations into a sad, funny and ultimately redeemable character.
Somewhere in the redemption Paul Weitz, or perhaps a nervous studio, gets a little too invested in payback, and In Good Company briefly becomes a more excitable, less believable movie. But Weitz manages to pull back the reigns at the last second and let the film trot to an ending with its honest instincts intact.
© 2005 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 12/15/04
In Good Company
US - 2004