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  •  REVIEW: IN GOOD COMPANY

    In Good Company




    By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
    Offoffoff.com

    So who in the world is Topher Grace, and what kind of a name is Topher anyways?

      
    IN GOOD COMPANY

    Related links: All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Fans of TV's "That '70s Show" will at least recognize him as that sitcom's Eric Forman but Topher's big screen performances have been few and far between (minor league roles in "Traffic," "Mona Lisa Smile," "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!," and "P.S." to date — that name, by the way, is one Christopher Grace adopted in school to avoid the loathsome nickname Chris).

    But that's all about to change with "In Good Company."

    This new film from the co-director of "About a Boy" (Paul Weitz) features Grace — I prefer to call him Topher — front and very center as Carter Duryea, a 26-year-old corporate climber who becomes the new boss of 52-year-old ad man Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) following a global takeover. It's hard to take your eyes off Topher. He's not in every scene in the film but it feels like he's in every scene — such is his intense, essential presence. Carter is a fast-talking, Venti-quaffing caffeine machine whose first priority at Sports America magazine is to trim a good deal of the fat. That means letting his people go.

    In Good Company  
    Pressure, then, for Dan, whose wife Ann (Marg Helgenberger) finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and whose daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson) has just been accepted into NYU's creative writing program. But Carter's wife (Selma Blair) is leaving him, again, so the young hotshot, who made his rep pushing kiddie cell phones, is facing some real pressures of his own (not to mention the fact that he doesn't exactly have any actual sales experience, so keeping Dan around as his "wing guy" seems the sensible thing to do).

    Quaid is typically likeable and convincing as Dan, a middle-aged exec with an attractive corner office and an inflated salary, two perks that make downsizing a given, and Johansson continues to convey soft, quiet intelligence as the young woman who takes a shine to Dad's superior. And there are some nice smaller roles, including David Paymer as an ax victim, Philip Baker Hall as a shady client, and an unbilled Malcolm McDowell ("The Company") as Teddy K, the snowy-haired Globecom media mogul spouting concepts like "synergy" (the film's original and much more distinguished title).

      In Good Company
    But it's Topher's show, like I say. It's he who grabs and retains our attentions.

    As he showed in previous outings, writer/director Weitz possesses a flair for complex human relationships and what better venue for exploring emotional conflicts than through the ever-stressful business dynamics of a company undergoing change. My only quibble here would be that the plot of "In Good Company" is a little too similar to the superior Rick (in which the title character had to deal with a boss, also half his age, with designs on his teenage daughter).

    Smart, funny, and with a thing or two to say about how people are treated and treat each other in the workplace, "In Good Company" is a solid entertainment powered by a viable up-and-comer in our man Topher. You could say the film ably demonstrates more than a little Grace under pressure.

    JANUARY 30, 2005
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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