Refreshing to see, this film plays like a romantic comedy without the comedy, allowing it to reinvent itself several times, and in the end it is an entertaining film that also works as a cautionary tale of "what not to do" when dating in the big city.
First time writer/director Julio DePietro displays an almost preternatural instinct for storytelling and using cinematic narrative devices to illustrate his film. For example: Bledel's character belongs to a book club, which she invites Greenberg's character to join. One of the books that they are reading is "The Good Soldier." DePietro uses this to his advantage paralleling the similarities between this novel and the film's plot, which have more in common than similarities in the titles. Both the film and the novel take place in flashbacks and use the idea of a "unreliable narrator" to throw off the audience so that they don't expect the radical twists that are yet to come in the plot. I was impressed with how DePietro was able to use the parallels between the two mediums to foreshadow and illustrate what was yet to come. The tone that he has set for the film is quite interesting leading the audience to believe that we are watching a romantic comedy, which quickly transforms into a dramatic yet romantic expose of a narcissistic, power-hungry womanizer. What also makes this film intriguing is the use of the financial industry in New York as a backdrop for the movie, specifically Wall Street brokers.
The film begins on a rainy night in Manhattan as a cab pulls up to an apartment and we see a sad and lonely Tommy Fielding (Porter) get out and walk up to the buzzer. His ex-girlfriend Beth (Bledel) answers the door and in a very annoyed manner asks Tommy, what he wants? Tommy explains that he has had a very bad night, lost his wallet and needs some help. If she can lend him some money, he'll go away and never bother her again. She comes down the stairs, hands him a wad of cash and says only these crushing words, "I feel sorry for you Tommy." Tommy has only one reply "Is HE up there with you?" As Tommy, seemingly heart-broken and alone heads for the taxi we flashback to several months earlier. Tommy is a successful financial broker on Wall Street and has just begun a relationship the attractive and smart Beth, who is an urban conservationist. Tommy and Beth seem to have a very loving relationship growing and Tommy has spent a lot of time trying to build that relationship with Beth, although he is still dealing with a "crazy" ex-girlfriend named Christy who won't leave him alone, which does not please Beth at all.
However Tommy has a bigger problem to deal with, the top broker on his team has left for a better job and Tommy must hire someone to replace him. He chooses Daniel (Greenberg), an awkward, shy and quiet former military man who is working as an office assistant at the firm. Tommy's boss (Andrew McCarthy) thinks that Daniel doesn't have what it takes for the cutthroat world of finance but agrees to let Tommy hire him for the position as long as Tommy can get him up to par. What follows next is a "My Fair Lady" type of story where Tommy must teach Daniel how to look, act and feel like a ruthless Wall Street power broker. It's at this time that Beth begins to feel neglected by Tommy who is spending all his time with his new friend Daniel. However, Daniel feels awkward in his new persona so Tommy and his fellow employees try to show him the ropes of Manhattan dating. Daniel says that he doesn't feel comfortable picking up girls in a bar so Tommy suggests he try meeting woman somewhere he feels more comfortable. With Tommy on the phone giving him advise, Daniel enters a New York bookstore and awkwardly begins chatting with a girl he meets and finds extremely attractive. Of course, unbeknownst to anyone it is Beth that he is flirting with.
Eventually, the three all meet together at a work function and Daniel realizes that he is falling for Tommy's girlfriend. Unintimidated by Daniel and working some angle of his own, Tommy suggests that Daniel join Beth's book club to meet more woman, which unintentionally brings Beth and Daniel closer together. Finally, as Tommy becomes more distant with Beth and she begins to feel more and more neglected by him, she happens to run into his ex, Christy, who Beth believes has been stalking Tommy for sometime. When Beth finally gets up the nerve to confront Christy, the truth becomes illuminated. What follows is the unraveling of Tommy's lies and deceitfulness and we find out just what level of secrets he's been keeping from everyone. This allows Beth to see Tommy for who he really is and realize that she has finally found what she's been looking for in Daniel ... a "Good Guy." The film ends by catching up to where it began and leaves us with an epilogue that give us a glimpse of where Tommy's life might be leading after the events of the film.
Bledel is solid as Beth and you can certainly understand why these two characters are so intrigued by her. However I feel like the actress was short changed by the script, which had her absent for much of the second act. While Bledel's performance is strong and appealing it does lack some of the electric-ness and immediate attraction of a performance like say, Zooey Deschanel in "500 Days Of Summer." While I understand the attraction to Beth, she does lack some of the qualities that I enjoyed so much in Deschanel's Summer. In short I fell in love with Summer and I only fell in like with Beth. Now this does hurt the movie a bit but is in no way a criticism of Bledel's performance. Porter did an excellent job of making his character completely likable while still creating that devious side underneath the surface so that the 180degree change that happens later in the film makes sense. However, it is Greenberg's performance as Daniel that really impressed and surprised me. I've never been a huge fan of the actor's previous work but he really creates a difficult, multi-layered, organic performance here as this awkward character that is completely endearing, relatable and believable. The movie feels very mature for having such a young cast and that was refreshing. Rather than dealing with school or parents they are dealing with real life issues like work, friendship, dating and love. "The Good Guy" is a strong romantic drama that packs lots of surprises and unexpected twists and turns for its audience. The movie is well written, well acted and makes for a solid piece of romantic entertainment.