Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Good Guy - Home Video Review

Release Date: February 19, 2010

Review Vital Stats:
Format: DVD
Player: LG Model 370
Picture Quality: Standard Definition
Sound Quality: Standard 5.1 Surround

Loves: Alexis Bledel
Likes: Romance films, being pleasantly surprised 
Hates: Films that insult my intelligence

The Good Guy is the ultimate nice guy fantasy film. Any guy that has ever been turned down by a woman because they were just being themselves instead of being the ultimate playboy will see right through the crap this film is trying to shovel our way. I didn't go into the film expecting to feel insulted by it but the circumstances in which everything goes down in it just really irritated me to no end. I'm sorry, but from personal experience a nice guy never gets the girl by being himself, being shy, and letting the woman make all the moves. That just doesn't happen in real life and we are expected to accept the fact that this is what happens here...complete and utter bullshit.

Now, I know it sounds like I am taking this film a little to personal but that is because...well before I get into spoilers here lets give a quick run down for you first shall we? We first meet Tommy Fielding (Scott Porter) one night as he stands outside his girlfriends(?) apartment building in the pouring rain. We have no context for why he is there, all we see is a man that appears to be heartbroken when he finds out that another man is with his girlfriend. She comes out and hands him some cash and says, "I feel sorry for you Tommy, I really do". Tommy begins his narration which we hear for the rest of the film and we follow him 6 weeks prior to find out what led up to that point.

Tommy & Beth...the happy couple.
He tells us that he is a Wall Street broker and a pretty dam good one at that. He is in charge of his own small team of brokers and answers only to one man, Cash (Andrew McCarthy), his boss. He has been seeing his girlfriend Beth (Alexis Bledel) for over 3 months now and seems to have everything going his way. But since we know from the opening scene that this will all be short lived we are constantly on guard for who will come into his life and take all these promises of a good life away from him. And that man just so happens to be the incredibly shy, incredibly handsome, and hopelessly romantic IT guy from Tommy's work, Daniel (Bryan Greenberg).

Tommy likes the guy and sticks his neck out for him to get him a stand in job on his team when a spot opens up. We see Tommy go to the mat for Daniel with his boss to give the guy a chance and then he goes out of his way to have not only himself but his team be there for him during the early stages of the job. In the midst of all these good deeds that Tommy is doing we are also inter cutting back to Beth whom has just received a mixture of bad and good news from her work. The trip to Italy has been canceled, however there is a promotion waiting for her in San Francisco if she wants it. While she is happy to have the opportunity she holds off on it because she doesn't want to ruin things with Tommy. Tommy, being the "good guy" that he is takes Beth out for the night to help her forget about losing the trip to Italy and is as attentive as any good boyfriend should be.

Tommy out for a night on the town with the very uncomfortable Daniel.
At this point Tommy seems like the perfect guy, hell he even gets Daniel an entire make over and tries to instruct him on the finer points of picking up women. You see, Tommy has this party that his team must attend and everyone attending must have a dinner date but the problem with Daniel is he is too dam shy to talk to a woman let alone have a girlfriend. Daniel takes his advice and instruction and heads out to...the library. While this at first seems like a horrible place for someone to "hook up" it soon becomes his salvation when he finally meets a woman he likes. Problem is that the woman he meets just so happens to be Beth, Tommy's girlfriend.

This is where the classic love triangle kicks in, but if we already have a good indication on how this turns out what is the hook to keep us watching? Well, this is where we start to head into spoiler territory so if you have any intentions on seeing this and don't want the big twist given away then I suggest you stop reading now and skip ahead to the last paragraph. Usually, especially for romance films, the narrator is the main protagonist, the person that we are supposed to identify with and care about. And we do identify with him and care about first. Here is the rub though, we find out that Tommy isn't the "good guy" after all, Daniel is.

Daniel & Beth...the perfect couple?
Did that just blow your mind? Because I believe that was the effect that the film makers were going for here. Everything is setting us up from the very beginning to think that Tommy is the guy we are supposed to connect with and that Beth ends up being the bad guy in all of this. I have to say though that they did a good job duping me on that because the way they slowly reveal Tommy's true nature is pretty darn clever. There are a series of moments scattered throughout the film where we see Tommy act or handle a situation in a certain way that seems innocent on the surface only to have it revealed to us later on what truly went down and what his real motivations were.

For instance, there is a scene that takes place in a night club/bar where Tommy has taken Daniel to find a date for their party. Daniel asks Tommy to demonstrate how to correctly approach a woman and with a slight bit of hesitation agrees to do it. Up to this point Tommy has been the perfect boyfriend to Beth and we figure the only reason he accepts this challenge is to help his new buddy Daniel out. Well, he talks to a woman and everything goes fine, until the next morning that is when we see the woman has spent the night at Tommy's place. Tommy's narration points out that the woman had been a little too tipsy to drive home and out of the kindness of his heart he let her stay the night. He decides not to tell Beth because he doesn't want to have her get upset over something that didn't happen.

Beth talking on the phone with her new book buddy Daniel.
What really happened of course is that he did sleep with her and the real reason he went to talk to her is because he really did want to get her in bed. The strange and devious part to this though is that Tommy told us, the viewer directly, that nothing happened. He lied to us, just like he lied to Beth and everyone else. This is a classic use of the Unreliable Narrator. Most of what Tommy tells us is a flat out lie and you can't help but feel betrayed which I believe is the effect the film makers were shooting for. He lies to us just like he lies to Beth and because of that we completely understand why she blows him off in the beginning because we now want to do the same thing to him. Despite my personal hatred for the other aspects of this film I actually found this plot point to be rather ingenious.

Now, you may be confused at this point because I have been giving the film mild but consistent praises which is in stark contrast to my opening paragraph. That would be because I haven't talked at all about the budding relationship between Beth and Daniel. Where this film lost me is how easily these two individuals come together, which is a problem because the whole film rests on us believing these two are perfect for one another. I want to mention right away that none of my issues are with the actors themselves, Bryan Greenberg and Alexis Bledel actually make a really sweet couple and do what was expected of them, but whomever was responsible for the particulars on how they get together needs to be shot.

Daniel is the type of guy that seems more at ease when he is around women.
Daniel is a shy dude, he is very polite to and feels more at ease around women, doesn't see them as sex objects, likes to spend a Friday night in doors reading a good book, helps clean up after a little get together and generally is a really nice guy. Beth is a woman stuck with an asshole for a boyfriend and is looking for everything Daniel is but doesn't realize it until they finally meet one another. They both fall for each other immediately but there are two things keeping them apart, first is the fact that she is still dating Tommy and second is that Daniel isn't very good at making the first move. This is all rectified though when Beth finds out what Tommy has been doing behind her back and decides to be the one to make not just the first move, but all the moves.

This is my main issue with this film because Daniel is ME, more or less (not the handsome part though I'm afraid). Every character trait of his is a trait of mine except maybe the reading part, but I completely bought into Daniel because of that. All through the film he was being instructed on how to be a playboy and how he should act like a slick ass when talking to the ladies. He fights that and remains true to himself which is all good and fine (another thing that I have had to deal with myself). I was waiting for him to win Beth over by being there for her and comforting her but no, that doesn't happen. What happens is Beth pursues him, is constantly checking in with him, wants to do things with him and all Daniel has to do is be himself and sit around waiting for her to make all the moves. I'm sorry but that isn't how it works in the real world as nice as it might sound.

Beth begins to suspect something is a little off about Tommy.
Don't get me wrong, that is most certainly how is should work in real life but it doesn't and the fact that this film so lazily has these two get together just because he is a nice guy is insulting to not only nice guys like me but to smart women like Beth. The same day that Beth realizes Tommy has been unfaithful to her she sleeps with Daniel as soon as she can. There is no real build up to it, other than a couple moments here and there between them. They are never given that one true moment where they connect other than a few fleeting glances. Perhaps I am reading too much into it and am overly bitter at the world or maybe their night together wasn't supposed to lead into a meaningful relationship (I do believe it is though) but everything involving Beth and Daniel and their particular circumstances in which they get together just bugged the hell out of me and completely took me out of the film.

I truly wish I could buy into the idea of a beautiful, intelligent and charming woman realizing she is with the wrong guy (which also never happens) and then jumping straight into the arms of the man that deserves her love but I am a realist unfortunately and know that just doesn't happen. And yes, I do realize that most romantic films are fantasy and most of what happens in them is a wish fulfillment of some manner but there are ways of doing it without insulting my intelligence. I am probably the most die hard romantic I know and I love to get swept up in a good love story but I was just unable to do it here.

OK, I have never been this split on a recommendation before. On the one hand there is a lot to like here, all the actors are great in their roles (although what is up with Alexis Bledel?...between this and Post Grad she has now been involved with two of the star quarterbacks for the Dillion Panthers from the Friday Night Lights television show...strange). If you like romances you will definitely like it, although if you have read this far I have ruined most of the surprises for you, but this is a generally sweet film with a somewhat neat twist to it. So, if you aren't bothered by the "fantasy" of it all like I was by all means check it out but overall I would have to say...



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