It’s so subtle, so sophisticated and the only character I can truly relate to is Carter Duryea the lead. It felt timely to write this review because I am 26 and Carter is 26. I have seen this film many times over the years as I had bought the film when I was a teenager in April 2006.
My first impression of the film watching it as a sixteen year old wasn’t a positive one I was almost bored by it but that is simply because the humour and dynamics are too sophisticated for mere teens it’s a grown-up film and you need to mature a lot to appreciate this film. So it took a lot of time for me to fully appreciate it but I was immediately drawn to the film and would watch it over and over again. As a teen watching it I found it so exciting that Alex gets to date Carter and their serendipitous run-in at the cafe is enjoyable.
As a teenager I was obsessed with this one film still of Scarlett johansson outside the (real) Cafe Reggio on 119 MacDougal Street and West 3rd Street, Manhattan. I loved the leisurely vibe and her fashion sense. The term #LIFEGOALS didn’t exist back in ’06 but if it had this photo was it for me. I even wore a blazer and hoodie constantly.
In the scene Alex is reading “Early Short Stories” by Anton Chekhov.
Before I used to, in a way, look up to Carter and thought he was amazing. Now I’m 26 and I completely relate to him because he has this success yet he has nobody, the people at work dislike him and he’s dating a teenager. There’s a lot of insecurity around him and his collegiate girlfriend because she’s dating her father’s boss. So just when Carter is trying to find a chance at happiness it’s really shot down, happiness is never truly tangible for him in the film.
Alex: “It’s strange you know, it seems like your sort of bummed out about your career but you’re so successful.”
Carter: “My career is pretty much what I have in my life that and a dented Porsche.”
In the chance encounter at Cafe Reggio there’s a real sense of disappointment and mild sorrow in Carter. He doesn’t seem as happy as he ought to be given that he’s young, handsome and successful. Alex cannot, as perhaps the audience, understand why he seems somewhat dissatisfied toward his accomplishments. A decade later I understand why Topher Grace portrays Carter in such a mild state of unease and hopelessness (very subtlety.) The truth is when you’re a Carter Duryea type you’re not going to be liked, all you have is your career; with great skill and talent come disappointments as nobody else is as on the ball.
Initially until I actually turned 26 the fact that he was secretly dating his colleague’s 18 year old daughter didn’t feel inappropriate but now I see that it is. That’s partly because I was seeing myself as the 18 year old Alex in the film so naturally felt it would be wonderful to date someone like a Carter Duryea. He comes in his Porsche to collect you from your dorm room and gives you a Diamond Chopard necklace for no reason. (Gotta say guys like him don’t really exist-sadly!)
Previously in my teens I didn’t immediately like Carter yet I was completely gravitated by this character because he represents so much truth about what life is like on the other side. I didn’t immediately take to Duryea not because of his traits or actions I think it’s to do with how the character is handled. There just wasn’t enough expression in Grace’s face, because there are plenty of reasons why the audience should root for Carter but perhaps they don’t. Some actors are auditory and other actors are visual and it’s the latter that pull you in deeper. What I mean by that is auditory people make less facial expressions. Why? Because they’re focused on dialogue, they’re focused on reply, tone of voice or coming in with their line at the right time. Whereas a visual actor (think the entire Friends TV show cast) are incredibly expressive and the emotion on their face is easy to read whereas as I did not see this in Topher. Though his entire performance is strong and perfectly captures the nuanced message that success is not all it seems and the scary truth as Life Coach Tony Robbins would put it: “Success Without Fulfillment Is the Ultimate Failure.”
Films like this just aren’t made anymore. What makes the film so satisfying is that there are no major betrayals between characters no maliciousness and nothing too salacious which makes it so refreshing. Notably the Paul Weitz also directed About a Boy and was an executive producer of American Pie 2. A film similar to this may be The Company Men starring Ben Affleck yet it lacks the sweetness of In Good Company as it’s very real and poignant. In Good Company portrays corporate culture with a wholesome dash that continues to make it a pleasure to watch as the years go by.