Good Guy, The

By Michael T. Dennis
From rookie writer-director Julio DePietro comes “The Good Guy,” a modern morality play about young people experiencing life and love in the big city. The film takes a strong stance against shallow relationships, but by the end it veers off the tracks and into the realm of a tired old romantic drama.
DePietro comes to directing fresh off a stint as a film producer. Prior to that he worked in the financial industry where he enjoyed a front row seat to the excesses and bad behavior of newly rich young men. All of this experience serves him well, resulting in an astute sense of observation when dealing with the middle-upper class stock traders and playboys who populate the world of “The Good Guy.”
That world, which looks something like a cross between uptown Manhattan and Disneyland, is the film's greatest asset. With just a few well-placed details we are instantly drawn into the corporate lifestyle that affords arcade games in your living room, entry into exclusive clubs, and sex with only the most beautiful women. It also fosters a sense of entitlement in guys whose motto seems to be “work hard, play hard.” Unfortunately not everybody attached to this lifestyle fits the mold and there is little room for outsiders.
“The Good Guy” actually tells the story of a good girl. The flawless Beth (Alexis Bledel) is a smart, sophisticated young urbanite who's in the process of collecting all the things she needs to live a good life: a satisfying career, an intellectual circle of friends, and the perfect man.
Secure in her relationship with Wall Street hotshot Tommy (Scott Porter), things start to unravel when Beth gets a job offer that would mean abandoning New York and moving across the country. It's time for some soul searching, and Tommy's action-packed lifestyle doesn't leave any time for a thoughtful conversation.
With her life at a crossroads, Beth meets Daniel (Bryan Greenberg), a shy, sensitive young man with time to listen and an endless supply of corny aphorisms that he actually seems to believe. Daniel is a good guy, but mostly in the sense of “good guys finish last.” His Ivy League education and military service are gold stars that do little to imbue him with social graces.
Complicating matters is the fact that Daniel is also the newest member of Tommy's elite team of stock traders at work. As Beth develops a friendship with Daniel that forces her to rethink her image of the perfect man, Tommy sees a chance to shape Daniel in his own image, parading him around town like a Ken doll to buy new clothes and get him an acceptable haircut.
It's not long before we learn that Tommy's manipulation of Daniel is just a hint at the way he has been manipulating Beth. As Tommy's good guy facade comes crumbling down, Daniel's authenticity shines even more brightly until Beth is faced with yet another tough decision.
Here “The Good Guy” is at its most simplistic, and therein lies the fatal flaw. What has been a compelling story about diverse personality types and the uses of power in a relationship turns into a drawn-out waiting game as we wonder how long it will take Beth to get wise to Tommy.
The ending is the last in a string of safe choices, which includes characters that are easy to portray and a disappointingly narrow sample of humanity. “The Good Guy” takes place in a world full of wealthy, attractive people; even the apparent losers have a lot going for them. The result is that the only thing that's ever at stake is someone being relegated to a lesser state of happiness. Just the opposite of Tommy's trading philosophy, this is a low risk/low reward scenario.
A fair question to ask would be what exactly “The Good Guy” has to say about Generation Y. Like most good drama, the characters can be expected to have flaws. But taken as a whole, the group is shown to be aimless, aloof and self-centered. This is far from an endorsement of hope for the future.
On the other hand, there is a very clear indictment of the corporate power structures that fuel this sort of thinking. DePietro proclaims that the promise of indulgence will always be a powerful tool for manipulating hungry young men with dreams that can be easily exploited.
This statement is backed by the director's own experience and finds support in other films set in corporate America. There are references to the bad boy exploits of “American Psycho.” Scenes that take place in Tommy and Daniel's office are among the strongest in the film, reminiscent of the intense financial action sequences in “Boiler Room.” As in that film, we expect the traders to start quoting “Wall Street” at any moment, just in case we're having trouble remembering where it all began.
The results of giving in to this sort of temptation are made apparent in a great scene with Tommy trying desperately to reconnect with a series of old girlfriends in the hopes of some casual sex. His phone manner, even his use of aliases (Thomas, Tom, Tommy), borrows from the same skills he uses to sell stock, with one phone to each ear and a web of misinformation that drives the price higher and higher.
“The Good Guy” is an odd choice of titles for this film. Ultimately it seems to refer to Daniel, but the story is really all about Beth, who is the most fully developed and sympathetic character by a wide margin. At first Beth sees Tommy as “good” but are we expected to go along with her slow realization that he is, in fact, a super rat? It seems unlikely, since Tommy's arrogance and businesslike way of conducting his relationship with Beth tip us off as to his inner nature very early on.
Beth Vest – Alexis Bledel
Tommy Fielding – Scott Porter
Daniel Seaver – Bryan Greenberg
Cash – Andrew McCarthy
Steve-O – Aaron Yoo
Cynthia – Kate Nauta
Lisa – Anna Chlumsky
Belladonna Productions and Whitest Pouring Films
Distributed by Roadside Attractions
Written and directed by Julio DePietro
Producers, Rene Bastian, Julio DePietro, Melanie J. Elin, Jonathan Mason, and Linda Moran
Original Music, tomandandy
Cinematographer, Seamus Tierney
Editor, Ray Hubley
Casting, Sig De Miguel and Stephen Vincent
Production Designer, Tommaso Ortino