The Good Girl

The Good Girl Information

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For the 2004 Spanish pornographic short film of the same name, see The Good Girl (2004 film).

The Good Girl is a 2002 black comedy film directed by Miguel Arteta from a script by Mike White, and stars Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly.


The film opens showing a dusty Texas town in the middle of nowhere, and tells the story of Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston), a thirty-year-old married woman who works at the local Retail Rodeo. Justine's life seems rather mundane. She works with an eccentric group of characters, including Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel), a cynical, young girl who inserts subliminal profanities 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 Bible-obsessed security guard. Justine returns home every night to her dim-witted and seriously clueless husband Phil (John C. Reilly), a house painter who spends more time getting high on the couch with his buddy Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) than doing any work.

Justine feels trapped, and there seems like no sign of escape. Then, one day, a new, young cashier named Holden Worther (Jake Gyllenhaal) starts working at the Retail Rodeo and Justine is almost immediately taken by him. Holden keeps to himself mostly and always has his nose in a copy of "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 everyday and even hanging out after work. Holden always manages to get Justine to take him home, by pretending to have a twisted ankle, and, one day, Holden tries to make a move in the car, but Justine stops him, reminding him that she's a married woman.

One day, Holden does not show up to work, but sends a letter to Justine, telling her that if she does not meet him at 5 p.m. that day behind the Chuck E. Cheese, she will never see him again. Justine plans to go, but as the day ticks by, Gwen gets sick off of some blackberries she was eating throughout the work day. Gwen starts vomiting, and Jack, the manager (John Carroll Lynch), tells Justine to drive Gwen to the hospital. Justine asks Jack what time it is, Jack looks at his watch, and says that it's a quarter to five.

Justine speeds the ill-stricken Gwen to the hospital, and drops her off at the entrance, then rushes to the Chuck E. Cheese. She looks around, and sees that no one is there. She missed Holden. Then suddenly, he pops up next to her car, scaring her. Holden says that he's glad she came, and that he wants to take her to a motel. They go to a motel, which Justine pays for with her credit card. There, in the motel, Justine and Holden have sex, and Justine begins to feel more alive that she's been in a long time.

Justine and Holden continue to have the affair, without anyone, especially Phil, having a clue. When Justine goes to visit Gwen in the hospital a few days later, Corny walks out, with a sad look on his face. He tells Justine that Gwen died, that the blackberries she was eating had some pesticides on them. Justine is very upset by this. The next day at work, Jack, the manager, makes the announcement that Gwen died the night before, and says that any of the employees who feel like they need some time to themselves, they can take the day off. Naturally, everyone leaves, and the Retail Rodeo is closed that day.

Justine and Holden go to a lake on their day off, where Holden wants to skinny-dip and have sex with Justine, but Justine is still a little shaken by Gwen's death. The two do, however, make love in her car, after it begins to rain. Then, one night, as the two are leaving the motel, Justine sees Bubba's truck in the parking lot. She grabs Holden and quickly makes it out of the motel. Justine is now very paranoid, and thinks that Bubba knows. She tells Holden that they need to cool down for awhile, which Holden is upset about but accepts. Justine returns home, and sees Bubba and Phil getting high and watching television as normal. Phil seems completely oblivious, while Bubba has a look as if he knows. He tells Justine that it's a shame that Gwen died, and asks if Justine was by her side when she passed. Phil gets up to go to the bathroom, and while Justine and Bubba are alone, Bubba tells her to meet him tomorrow at his house, because they need to talk.

The next day, Justine is extremely worried, and tries to brush off Holden, but he keeps persisting, saying that he'll go crazy if she doesn't see him that day. Justine promises to see him the next day, because she has to go see somebody later. After work, Justine goes over to Bubba's house, where he explains that he saw Justine with Holden going to a motel, and he followed, and listened by the door of the room, and he heard Justine's moans of passion. But Bubba is a little reluctant to tell Phil about it because he explains that he never found a wife because he felt that he could never find someone as "perfect" as Justine and that he even admired Phil. However, Bubba does blackmail Justine, threatening to tell Phil unless she sleeps with him. Against her better judgment, Justine does have sex with Bubba, although you can tell by her face she is not even remotely interested. After Bubba finishes, Justine pushes him off of her, and looks out the window, only to see Holden watching from outside. Justine is shocked to see this, and rushes out of the house.

Holden does not show up to work the next day, but is waiting in Justine's car when she gets off work. He is drunk, and tells her that he will be drunk everyday until she apologizes. He calls her a "hooker"," then begins to cry. Justine now realizes that Holden is very screwed-up and is not the escape that she wanted. She also realizes that she needs to get rid of a few problems. As she and Holden drive in the country, Justine passes by a withered, dirty old man selling blackberries on the side of the road. Justine buys a few, and gives them to Holden. Holden eats about five, before Justine realizes what she's doing, and throws the remaining blackberries out of the car.

During all of this, there is some speculation about Phil's ability to impregnate Justine. She was upset with him earlier in the film about it, because he smokes so much pot, so she schedules an appointment to have his sperm tested. She meets Phil at the clinic with Bubba, and after Phil leaves to give a "sample," Bubba asks Justine how he measured up as a lover. This is interrupted by a nurse telling Justine that Phil requests her presence. Phil is having trouble getting going, so he asks Justine if he can grab her breasts. She lets him, but says that they are sore.

The next day, at work, Justine tells Cheryl that she felt sick all morning and that her breasts are very tender. Cheryl suggests that Justine may be pregnant. That night, Justine takes a pregnancy test, but is interrupted by Phil. He demands to be there when the results come out. The test turns out to be positive, and Phil is overly excited. He wants to call Bubba and celebrate the next day, but Justine says that it's too early to tell if she is really pregnant.

The next day, Justine arrives to work, and there are cops everywhere. Cheryl says that something big happened last night, and goes to see what it was. When she returns to the cosmetics counter, she tells Justine that someone opened the safe with a gun and stole $15,000. Justine asks who would do such a thing, and Cheryl says that the cops know for a fact it was Holden. After awhile, Justine is called into Jack's office, and interrogated by the cops and Corny about her relationship with Holden. She claims they hardly know each other, but Corny says that he has cameras in the storage room and that he's seen Justine and Holden having sex back there. They next ask Justine of Holden's whereabouts, but Justine honestly answers that she does not know. As she leaves for lunch, Holden, incognito and looking very proud, tells Justine about the money, and about his plans for them to escape that day. Justine says that she needs to go home and grab some things, so Holden tells her to meet him at a hotel. He will be there until noon.

Justine goes home and quickly packs, then gets in her car. As she pulls to an intersection, she comes to a crossroads. To her left is the Retail Rodeo, to the right is the hotel. She contemplates which possible future to choose. She chooses the Retail Rodeo. Justine marches into Jack's office and tells Corny and the cops of Holden's whereabouts and how long he plans to stay there. Jack tells her that she did the right thing, and that she can go home for the rest of the day. When she gets home, Phil, Bubba, and Bubba's new girlfriend, Floberta, are waiting for her, so they can go out and celebrate. The phone then rings, and Phil answers. He gets angry with whomever is on the other line, saying that Justine is pregnant. After he hangs up, he tells everyone else that his sperm tested negative. Phil says there's no way he's shooting blanks, since Justine is expecting. Everyone but Phil finally figures it out. A little later, the television is on, and there's a news report saying that the cops surrounded a hotel where a Retail Rodeo clerk suspected of stealing ten grand was staying. The anchor announces that the clerk, identified as Tom Worther (Holden was his adopted name), killed himself with a gun before police could make entry into the room. Justine is shocked beyond belief about this. Phil asks if she knows who the kid was, and Justine says she hardly knew him.

The next day, Jack announces Holden's death to the Retail Rodeo employees, only this time, he does not let anyone leave, since Holden was a liar and a thief. Bubba shows up at the store and tells Justine that he was at their house and Phil opened a statement from the credit card company, which listed the motels that Justine paid for with the card. When Justine arrives home, Phil is obviously very upset. He asks Justine if she's having an affair. Justine answers yes, then Phil slaps her. He then apologizes, and asks who it was. Justine says it's not important since it's over. Phil asks if it was the Bible study guy (Corny), and Justine, just to ease his wandering mind, answers yes.

The next day, at work, Justine uses the cosmetics to cover up her swollen face, and sees Corny walk by, bruised with his arm in a sling. Cheryl says that two men jumped Corny last night after Bible study. As the film closes, we learn that nothing really changes in Justine's life. She continues to work at the Retail Rodeo and she stays with Phil, but she does have Holden's baby, and tells Phil that he is the father.


Critical reception

The Good Girl was well received by most critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 81% of 156 critics gave the film a positive review, for an average rating of 7/10. The site's consensus states that "A dark dramedy with exceptional performances from Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal, The Good Girl is a moving and astute look at the passions of two troubled souls in a small town." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a "generally favorable" average score of 71, based on 35 reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film three 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".


Year Award Category Recipient Result
2003 Independent Spirit Awards Best Female Lead Jennifer Aniston
Best Supporting Male John C. Reilly
Online Film Critics Society Best Actress Jennifer Aniston
Satellite Award Best Supporting Actor " Motion Picture John C. Reilly
Best Actress " Motion Picture Jennifer Aniston
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Liplock Jennifer Aniston
Choice Movie Liar Jennifer Aniston
Choice Movie Actress - Drama/Action Adventure Jennifer Aniston
Choice Movie Breakout Star " Male Jake Gyllenhaal
Chlotrudis Awards Best Supporting Actor John C. Reilly

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