In literature as in cinema, we're accustomed to trusting our narrators to guide us accurately through a series of events, meanwhile managing to entertain, inform and engage us enough that we're invested in the overall plot as it unfolds.
The same can definitely be true of our prospective mates. Namely, we long to trust them as we navigate through the rocky terrain of our relationship and in doing so, realize that similar to books and movies, we're genuinely swept up in the partnership both romantically and as platonic friends whom we value on a far more emotional level than our narrators.
With this in mind, we face a conundrum in Julio DePietro's sharply written romantic dramedy The Good Guy as the movie opens seemingly after our narrator Tommy (Scott Porter) and his girlfriend of a few months – Beth (Alexis Bledel) – have broken up. Upstairs with another man whose face is unseen, we're unsure just what to believe as Beth informs Tommy in a mature tone that she feels sorry for him before the young Wall Street trader and Generation Y yuppie reveals in a narration that he never thought Beth would break his heart so severely.
It grows even more complex as the movie rewinds six weeks in time when we see the couple in much happier times. On the one hand we learn that while Tommy has the ability to lie without blinking or wavering in his voice to negotiate multi-million dollar deals as head of the sales desk at the Morgan Brothers firm, the brainy beauty Beth is so sweet tempered that she's barely able to lie when Tommy interrupts girls' night and nearly catches them chiding her because the two hadn't had sex yet.
Are first impressions what they seem and who can we trust when the film offers us not only a narrator but some point-of-view time with other characters with different perspectives?
Further cementing our interest and adding a delightful unknown element to the couple's dynamic, we meet Tommy's new, wholesome near-boy scout co-worker Daniel (Bryan Greenberg), a former soldier who starts on the lowest rung of the company ladder fixing computers and fetching sleazy boss Andrew McCarthy coffee before Tommy gives him the opportunity to work the phones as a member of the tightly knit Entourage like team.
Working hard and playing much harder, cruising bars for women with a low IQ, a low-cut dress, and/or low self-esteem, Tommy tries to school Daniel in on dressing like a contemporary white collar professional instead of a Blockbuster employee, only to learn that similar to Beth, Daniel is far happier staying home and reading the classics.
Soon Daniel becomes the only male of Beth's small book club and, as the audience soon gathers, possibly more than a little infatuated with Tommy's girl. But is Daniel as nice as he seems or does he have a dark side as one of Tommy's colleagues fear?
Inspired both in title and structurally by Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier, which is chosen as a selection in the film's book club as well as perhaps influenced by the deceptiveness of first impressions that Daniel references while discussing Pride and Prejudice, although the romantic direction the film ultimately takes may not come as a surprise, the way everything develops is unusual and inventive enough to make DePietro's film stand out.
Given the richness of the strong Mamet-esque dialogue, Porter makes a particularly memorable impression as he seems to change characters easily from one moment to the next when he's at work or off the clock in a way that feels very authentic and although Greenberg's character is a bit underwritten, both he and Bledel are able to infuse their natural appeal into their roles.
An auspicious debut from DePietro in a film that received its start on the international festival circuit, The Good Guy which arrives on DVD this week from Lionsgate also features audio commentary from its writer/director and female lead.
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