"In Good Company" is definitely good comedy and makes for terrific entertainment! Contemporary big business practices are satirized here Big Time! Written and directed by Paul Weitz, this is a film with a fluid storyline interwoven with some poignant threads about how we set our priorities and choose to live our lives. Not corny or too sentimental, the top-notch cast and good acting only increase the viewers' pleasure. Dennis Quaid is fabulous here, as is Topher Grace, his young nemesis. What more could one desire in a movie for a fun evening - except some hot popcorn?
Dan Foreman, (Dennis Quaid), is the successful Director of Marketing for Sports America Magazine. He actually likes his work, which is good, since he is a twenty-five year veteran of the ad industry. Dan is a fifty-something family man, married to forty-ish Anne Foreman, (stunning Marg Helgenberger from TV's CSI), who, we learn early on, is pregnant - a pre-menopausal surprise! It's OK, they're thrilled about the upcoming event! Daughter Alex, (Scarlett Johansson), an eighteen year-old college student, and her slightly younger sister Jana, (Zena Gray), really make-up the kind of warm, loving family anyone would want to belong to. These are decent, intelligent, normal people, who all seem to possess a sense of humor - some quirkier than others.
Carter Duryea, (Topher Grace), is a 26 year-old marketing wiz for GlobeCom, a multinational corporate conglomerate, owned and run by a Rupert Murdoch-like figure, "Teddy K," (Malcolm McDowell). Carter has frequently impressed his colleagues and managers with his creativity. His latest success, a cell phone ad campaign which targets preschoolers with dinosaur multi-colored mini phones, that roar instead of ring, has put smiles on GlobeCom employees' faces. Carter is driven, smart, smug and filled with energy fueled by lots of caffeine. He chugs down cup after cup of Starbucks' best. His marriage to a shallow, spoiled, deb type is definitely on the wane. Maybe he should spend more time at home, less at work. But then he wouldn't be GlobeCom's golden boy.
When GlobeCom acquires Sports America Magazine, young Turk Carter Duryea is promoted to head of ad sales. Guess whose position he usurps? At least Dan still has a job - as Carter's assistant - his "wing man!" Carter moves into Dan's corner office. Believe it or not, there are worse nightmares. Corporate acquisitions and mergers frequently trigger downsizing and lay-offs. Dan's entire sales team and many other Sports America employees are fired. Meanwhile, Dan's emotions run the gamut from rage to disbelief. And Carter doesn't know too much about magazine sales. He does talk a lot about "synergy," however - a popular buzz word around GlobeCom. In a rousing speech to his new "team," he asks them if they are "psyched for an awesome quarter." Although nobody seems to understand what this all means, they are eager to suck-up to the new boss, so they nod their heads in agreement.
"Synergy" we are informed by Teddy K., "means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself - the most empowering, unifying and exciting part." Carter comes to learn what Dan knows from Day 1 - "synergy" does not sell ads!
Weitz has structured his film in such a way that as we observe the parallel lives of Foreman and Duryea, we do not villanize the aggressive, yuppie brat. In fact, the further we move into the story, the more sympathetic both Carter and Dan become as characters. Dan may be depressed, humiliated and frustrated about his demotion, but trust me when I say that Carter's life is not the proverbial "bowl of cherries!" The juxtaposition of scenes contrasting the two men's worlds is truly effective. In one instance Dan signs papers taking out a second mortgage to pay for Alex's transfer to NYU, plus the expenses a new baby will incur - while Carter signs his divorce papers and buys a top-of-the-line Porsche. Dan's contented family life, along with his temporary financial difficulties are far removed from the financially secure but very lonely and isolated situation young Carter experiences.
Dan invites Carter to dinner after a long business meeting - not through hospitality, but by accident. He never expects Carter to accept. Carter and Dan's daughter Alex click, subtly enough that both parents are unaware. Carter finds in Alex a person he can talk to with honestly, without pretension. Alex experiences similar feelings. The situation really becomes weird when the two begin a relationship, while, at the same time, Dan and Carter's relationship improves - in many ways resembling a father-son situation, even when things turn violent. The dynamic between the two businessmen continually shifts, as do those between Alex and her father, Alex and Carter, Dan and Anne, etc.. There are enough wily twists and turns in the plot to keep things lively throughout. Nothing sappy or contrived here!
This is an intelligent film well worth watching. I recommend it highly.