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Review: 'The Good Guy'

The film deals with hearts and bonds (the stock market and the emotional kind) in the competitive environment of Wall Street.

February 19, 2010|By BETSY SHARKEY | Film Critic
  • Scott Porter and Alexis Bedel are the not-always-happy couple.
Scott Porter and Alexis Bedel are the not-always-happy couple. (Roadside Attractions )

If you've ever wondered whether it is possible for a fast-track Wall Street player to have a heart, "The Good Guy" makes a run at answering that question, spending some quality time at the intersection of stock traders and romantic bonds.

The result is a more-clever-than-most window into modern urban yuppie mating rituals, tracking just how tough it is to keep a grip on love and the corporate ladder at the same time.

The film stars Alexis Bledel as Beth, the good girl stranded on that dangerous corner. Scott Porter, excellent as the paralyzed former football star in "Friday Night Lights," is her hot broker/hot boyfriend Tommy, and Bryan Greenberg, who was adorably sexy as Uma Thurman's young lover and Meryl Streep's son in the little-seen "Prime," portrays the new guy on Tommy's trading team who might be falling for Beth too.

With that triangle as his base in this promising first feature, writer-director Julio DePietro sets about connecting the dots so we can follow the shifting alliances, debts, friendships and betrayals that pile up like overdue bills. In the process, he does a decent job of keeping the clich├ęs that tend to smother romances like this mostly at bay.

Drawing on his stint at a Chicago investment firm, DePietro creates characters, dialogue and situations that feel authentic, which makes the film relevant in unexpected ways, though not as deeply as you hope he'll do in the future. The filmmaker's better with the boys, capturing Wall Street life as a macho blood sport with its win-at-all-cost mind-set, whether it's a dart game after work or a multimillion-dollar deal.

One of the more unsettling moments is a game the guys play, a sort of high-tech musical chairs, in which the last to press the buzzer when the music stops gets hit with an electric jolt. It's tough to decide what's worse, the pain of the shock, the perverse pleasure everyone else gets watching or that it's absolutely believable.

Shot for about $10 million, the film's extensive use of locations around Manhattan, mostly begged and borrowed, gives it a richer look than you might think given its modest means. That DePietro takes his time letting us get to know the characters comes as another unexpected pleasure, staying with a defense of "Pride and Prejudice" at Beth's book club for example, rather than hurrying off in fear of boring us with a brief philosophical excursion.

The film is interested in that slice of the city that is young, affluent but not yet rich, a world in which the more serious and the shallow are still figuring each other out. Tommy is the kind of guy whom success comes to naturally. He always seems to know just how to play the moment, whether he's undertaking a Pygmalion transformation of Greenberg's Daniel into a player or sleuthing out a secluded garden that feels like Tuscany to soften Beth's disappointment that a trip to Italy's been canceled.

Since this is about Wall Street and love, there's more than one roller coaster to ride, and sometimes it's difficult to tell which one DePietro favors. The movie opens as Tommy's hit bottom on the love front. He's outside Beth's apartment, drenched by a downpour, trying to talk his way back into her building, and her heart. From that point, we flash back six weeks as piece by piece the filmmaker plays around with how Tommy turned up all wet and whether he is a good guy or not.

Bledel, best known for her bookish goodness in "The Gilmore Girls," is never asked to step outside of that comfort zone, which leaves the love story in need of some edge and the rest of us wondering if she'll ever be able to step into more grown-up roles. The better triangle turns out to be Porter, Greenberg and Wall Street, where much more than other people's money is always on the line and someone is sure to get hurt.

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