In Really Terrific Company
—About this Film
IN REALLY TERRIFIC COMPANY
Occasionally a movie comes along that grabs our attention because we recognize our own lives being acted out on the screen. We see so much of ourselves in at least one of the characters that we forget it is just a story that someone is hoping to make money off of or for which they would like to win an award. The film becomes like watching reality TV but with an actual plot and vastly more interesting dialogue. We find we can really relate on a level that totally engages and absorbs us so we truly “experience” the movie. In Good Company is just such a film and with the genius of timing, this little gem of a film from writer/producer Paul Weitz is released at the beginning of a new year when everyone is already thinking about the meaning of their lives.
In Good Company will appeal to a very broad base of the population as long as the people seeing it have lived long enough to reach adulthood and have experienced the angst of finding out that life doesn’t always go as one expected. This movie is about real everyday people, experiencing real everyday life, and living through it – celebrations, bumps, bruises, disasters, fears, insecurities, lessons, and all. A full gamut of emotions is pulled from the viewer as the story of Dan Foreman and Carter Duryea unfolds. There are some very good laughs, too, and that’s what keeps the movie from becoming depressing.
This all sounds as if the movie would be a bore. To the contrary, it is everything but boring because Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace portray such believable “everypersons”. And, Scarlett Johansson plays a semi-emancipated 18-year-old (the oldest daughter of Dennis Quaid’s character) who reminds us that many members of the younger generation do have responsible heads on their shoulders and are capable of making wise life decisions. In Good Company is not formulaic and its ending is also unique and real.
At its core, In Good Company is about relationships – especially the relationship between Dan (Quaid), who turns 52 in the movie, and Carter (Grace), his new boss who is exactly half his age. Dan and Carter, although miles apart in age, experience, and approach to life, find that they each have something to teach the other about living, breathing relationships. Mostly out of fear for the future of his family, Dan refuses to sacrifice himself to save a friend he has worked with for years and is forced to fire. Later, when the same thing is about to happen to Dan, Carter refuses to fire him and willingly sacrifices his own career. Dan and his daughter, Alex (Johansson), who begins dating Carter, do the tricky I-am-my-own-person/I-can’t-believe-you’re-grown-up, parent/child tango. Those who have raised a child to adulthood will not be able to ignore Dan’s anguish over letting go and the fears he has of losing his child. Everyday people who lead everyday lives often find themselves wishing that human beings were not so deeply relational. Relationships bring a great deal of joy, but they also bring hard work, pain, and change into our lives.
This is natural. After all, we were created by and drawn to serve a living God who desires a deep and true relationship with each one of us. This desire for relationship is proven out through the act of sacrificing His own Son so that we may be brought back into relationship with Him since sin causes an irreparable separation between Creator and created.
The movie’s other huge theme, of course, is change. As we watch these people struggle to define and build their relationships, it is reinforced that change is not an anomaly of life, but a daily reality. James tells us to “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2,3) Now there is good change, bad change, and so-so change, but there is no day that goes by where something doesn’t change on some level and we are “tried” with it and have to deal with it. Dan and his daughter come to a real change crossroads. Alex says to Dan at one point, “Daddy, you don’t have to change.” Dan replies, “Yes, Alex, I do have to change.” Dan finally understands that life in stasis is not an option. Experience in their relationships with Carter has taught each generation something about facing the trial of change and coming out of it more strongly bound to the other. They accept that the relationship has changed, that this is normal, and that this does not have to be a negative thing. They persevere out of love and restore faith in their relationship. It is a poignant scene where the young are proven to be teachers, too. Dan realizes that he cannot live happily or with real purpose while trying to hold time in a bottle. To truly live, one must take risks.
Finally, this draws us to again examine the question of our purpose while in this world. What is really important? Who is really running the days of our lives? Where are we placing our trust? Do we value people more than things? Do we panic when the carefully crafted 5, 10, 15, or 20-year plan we devised suddenly blows up in our faces? Is constant worry our primary hobby? Do we truly believe that our Heavenly Father loves us beyond what we can comprehend and will do for us “immeasurably more than we can ask or understand”? Do we believe with David in Psalm 31 that “[Our] times are in [God’s] hands”? Was Jesus just exercising rhetoric when he taught, “…do not worry about your life…”? In the process of going through major life changes, Dan and Carter both learn something that believers also often struggle to understand and often fail to see. In searching for our life purpose, we sometimes forget that God wants us and uses us right where we are: our own homes, workplaces, schools, etc. He has a plan for each and every one of us and will see that the plan is carried through to His glory. He began the work in us and He will complete it.
As I left the theater, I felt compelled to take my spiritual temperature. How is my relationship with Jesus Christ going? When “surprises” enter my life, do I act or react? What are my responses to my life transitions and trials saying to the people who watch me everyday? Do I walk the talk of faith and truly trust that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” or am I as big a whiner as the “why, me’ers” of whom I am constantly aware?
In Good Company is very aptly named. When you see it, I think that you will go away with the comfortable realization that you are not alone. As a member of humankind, you are in really terrific company!