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Aniston’s skill revealed through role in The Good Girl

The cast members of NBC’s Friends is batting about .100 in their choice of big screen roles. While their TV careers are brilliant, their movie roles seem very unimpressive. After a number of undeserving movies, Jennifer Aniston has shown she can make good choices in addition to some of the bad ones.

The Good Girl comes with serious indie cred. It was written by Mike White and directed by Miguel Arteta, the duo responsible for the equally odd Chuck and Buck. For White and Arteta, The Good Girl is a solid move up the cult status ladder. And for Aniston, it’s a good choice, as was Office Space, the cult comedy by Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge.

With a strong and smart plot, a talented supporting cast and decent extras, The Good Girl is a movie even the most skeptical critic can enjoy.

As Justine, a worn-out wife and retail clerk, Aniston is terrific. Her energy is down, her body language is constrictive and she slouches the same way anyone who has had to endure Justine’s existence would. Grinding through hour after hour at the Retail Rodeo, she watches customers pass through the suburban shop for cut-rate merchandise.

Her marriage to Phil (John C. Reilly) is equally dead. Phil is a house painter, who comes home every day, plops down on the couch and gets stoned with his best friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson). The film is smart in the way it treats Phil: He’s not a bad guy. He’s just not the right guy for Justine.

Suddenly, along comes the 22-year-old college dropout, Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal). Sitting behind the cash register at the Retail Rodeo, he reads The Catcher in the Rye and dreams of escaping his nominal existence. Justine empathizes with Holden’s dissatisfaction with life and soon they have sex anywhere and anytime. Unfortunately, everywhere also includes a motel, where they are spotted by Bubba.

At this point, Justine’s indiscretion begins to spin out of control, leading to unexpected consequences. The Good Girl is the story of a woman trapped in a routine that is slowly sucking the life out of her. In addition to the movie, the DVD contains nine deleted scenes, which run about eight and a half minutes total. Only one of the scenes merited inclusion in the final film: It’s a conversation in Justine’s car between her and Holden, where he tells her how disappointed his parents are in the way he turned out.

The DVD also features a commentary from director Miguel Arteta, writer Mike White and the film’s star, Jennifer Aniston. Also included is something called an alternate-ending montage. The ending is so short and so disconnected from the rest of the film that it plays like a scene that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Finally, there is a gag reel. About two and a half minutes long, it strings together a couple of dozen short clips of actors laughing before, after and during takes.

As for the Friends cast members, NBC announced they will be coming back for one more season. For moviegoers, this is a mixed blessing: It means fewer films like Ed, but it also means fewer films like The Good Girl.

Contact Pablo Saldanaat oraclescene@yahoo.com