|The Good Girl|
|Directed by||Miguel Arteta|
|Produced by||Matthew Greenfield|
|Written by||Mike White|
Tim Blake Nelson
John C. Reilly
John Carroll Lynch
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Release date(s)||August 7, 2002|
|Running time||93 min|
The film starts with narration about the life of Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston), a sad and lonely 30-year-old woman living in a dusty Texas town in the middle of nowhere. She works at the local Retail Rodeo (a downscale parody of Wal-Mart), with Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel), a cynical young girl who inserts subliminal profanities in announcements to the sleepwalking customers; Gwen (Deborah Rush), the overly peppy, older woman who works with Justine in the cosmetics department; and Corny (Mike White), the religion-obsessed security guard.
Justine's home life is no better. She returns home every night to her dim-witted husband Phil (John C. Reilly), a house painter who spends more time getting high and drunk on the couch with his best friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) than doing any work. Justine's life is mundane, and while she plans with Phil to have a baby to improve things, she feels trapped, and there seems to be no sign of escape.
All this changes when, one day, a new, young cashier named Holden Worther (Jake Gyllenhaal) starts working at the Retail Rodeo. Holden keeps to himself and always has his nose in a copy of The Catcher in the Rye claiming that his own life parallels that of Holden Caulfield. Justine and Holden start spending a lot of time together, having lunch every day and even hanging out after work. He and Justine slowly become friends and she realizes that they are the same: He hates the world as much as she does.
One day, Holden does not show up for work, but sends a letter to Justine, proclaiming his love for her telling her that if she does not meet him at 5 p.m. that day, he will never see her again. Justine plans to go, but suddenly Gwen feels unwell at work and needs to be taken to the hospital where, diagnoised with food poisoning, she dies a few days later. Justine is obliged to drive her there, but abandons her at the entrance and races to meet up with Holden. Though she arrives half an hour late, Holden has waited for her. Holden and Justine agree to have a relationship, and proceed to a motel and have passionate sex. Over the next several days, Justine begins to feel more alive than she has in a long time.
Justine and Holden continue their relationship, keeping it secret from their co-workers, Phil, and Holden's parents. They form a habit of meeting up at the motel for sex. Justine narrowly avoids exposure on several occasions, like almost running into the motel manager at a church when she convinces Phil to go to Bible class.
Eventually, Corny sees the two kissing on the security camera and confronts her, but ultimately agrees to stay silent. Things get more complicated when Bubba discovers and monitors the affair, then arranges to have Justine meet him at his own house and reveals what he has learned. Bubba blackmails Justine, saying that if she doesn't have sex with him, he will be forced to tell Phil. Justine reluctantly allows this, though while they are having sex, Holden is seen to be watching them. Later, a drunken Holden confronts Justine after work, calling her a whore for betraying him by having sex with Bubba. The affair quickly moves from liberation to poisonous obsession as she begins to feel Holden is unstable, obsessive, and too immature.
Several days later, Justine suddenly feels stomach cramps and her breasts begin swelling, and she doesn't know why. Cheryl casually suggests she is pregnant, and Justine realizes this may be the case. When Holden meets with Justine after work, they drive past the same fruit stand that sold parasitic fruit to Gwen which were the cause for her death. Realizing how disturbed Holden is, Justine decides she needs to rid herself of Holden if she ever wants to go straight. She buys him the parasite infested blackberries, but eventually can't bring herself to go through with it and throws away the fruits after he has had two of them.
Justine's pregnancy test comes back positive, leaving Phil ecstatic. Justine realizes it is not Phil's child, but Holden's. Phil then receives the result of an earlier sperm test and learns that he has become sterile due to his many years of taking narcotics. Justine manipulates him into believing the sperm test was wrong, but Phil finds charges for the motel on their credit card bill and figures out that Justine has been having an affair. He breaks down and asks if the child is his. Justine lies and tells him it is.
Holden, wanting to convince Justine to begin a new life on the road together with the baby, robs the Retail Rodeo safe of $15,000. Then, on the run from the police, Holden arranges with Justine to meet at the motel and leave town. At one point, Justine is at traffic light, where she must make a choice: live life as a fugitive with Holden, or stay in her mundane one with Phil. Justine chooses to stay, and alerts the police to Holden's location. Surrounded and not wanting to be arrested, Holden commits suicide.
The movie ends with Justine reading the short story that Holden had written about her. She understands that she was using Holden as a means to escape and now she finally realizes that no one can escape reality and that there is no escape from consequence, and any attempt at doing so breeds further consequence. She and Phil reconcile and welcome the birth of a daughter.
In the special DVD release, Justine narrates that she chooses Holden and they run away together to live in the woods "never to be heard from again" as she and Holden sit together by a lake.
The film was well received by critics, earning an 82% "fresh" rating on the film review site Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus for the film was, "As Justine, Aniston proves she can successfully act outside her longtime Friends role." Roger Ebert gave the film 3 and a half stars and also praised Aniston's performance, and saying The Good Girl is an "independent film of satiric fire and emotional turmoil".