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New Comedy <i>In Good Company</i> Highlights Workplace Generation Struggle

  • Alan Silverman

Hollywood veteran Dennis Quaid and newcomer Topher Grace co-star in a new comedy that spotlights the generation struggle in the workplace. Alan Silverman has a look at In Good Company.

Dan Foreman is a veteran sales manager at a national sports magazine; but after a corporate takeover, he's demoted and a whiz kid half his age, Carter Duryea, is brought in to run the office.

Dennis Quaid is the same age as his character, so he can identify with the experience of having to work with and for younger people. However, he says a point of the story is that the generations can learn from one another.

"As you get older you start to acquire more character, as it were. You don't seem to care so much about how it will appear or whatever," Quaid says. "You just let go of a lot of stuff, so you can be a leading man and a character actor at the same time, in a way ... or carry a film."

It doesn't help the situation much when Carter, played by Topher Grace, falls in love with Dan's college-age daughter, played by Scarlett Johansson.

Grace, co-star of the popular TV sitcom That 70's Show, says this character does not recognize - at least, not at first - how much he has to learn.

But that's his character. Off-screen, Grace says he sees it differently, especially after the experience of making this film.

"I've done a couple of days on movies like Traffic and Mona Lisa Smile; but after spending weeks and months with someone as accomplished as Dennis - you can't get away with bad acting," he says. "It's like your final in school. It's this great test. I used to play tennis - I wanted to go into pro tennis - and what happens is when you're playing tennis with someone worse than you, you wind up losing to them. If you play with someone better than you, they make you better. So my thesis in terms of choosing projects is: I love being the least famous person in a movie."

In Good Company is written and directed by Paul Weitz, who, at 38 is between the ages of the two main characters, so Weitz says he tried to tell the story from both points of view.

"I think that there is always a flip side to ageism. First off, the younger people are, if they are lucky, get to the position that they are discriminating against; but also there is no sort of apprenticeship system in business currently," he says. "So it's very easy to say Dennis Quaid's character is being hurt by this situation, but it's interesting to me to look at how the younger guy is being hurt by the situation. Also, mentoring is something that I'm very interested in. There are certain things that a mentor can tell you that your parents can not."

Weitz's previous films include the raunchy comedy American Pie and the comic romance About A Boy. Unlikely as it seems, he does find a thread running through those films that relates to this one.

"It's about what kind of man are you going to become. Are you going to become humanized? Or are you going to become more vicious?" Weitz explains.

In Good Company also features Marg Helgenberger as Dan's eminently sensible wife; and Selma Blair plays the self-centered spouse who leaves Carter just as his career is on the rise.