This spring, I went to my local video store to look at their stock of DVDs that they had for sale. As I was going through the shelves, I found a movie that had resonated with me when I had seen it on cable. It’s not really famous, not crass, and not something twenty-somethings would watch these days. The movie? In Good Company.
There is something about this movie starring Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johannson which really resonates with me. It’s not so much about the dog-eat-dog world of business, but about finding out what’s important in life and how to live that fully.
In many ways, it’s a realistic film because it deals with the world of corporate mergers and conglomerates. On an entirely different level, however, it is simply a movie about a young man trying to find himself and an older man just trying to hold on when everything in his world is turned upside down.
Indeed, there is something about Carter Duryea (Grace) and Dan Foreman (Quaid) which echoes our own deepest needs and desires. Duryea is the go-getter for a larger conglomerate that thrives on synergy and cross promotion. Although Duryea is touted as a machine and somebody that could really turn around ad sales, he is much more human than what he is advertised as. Even when he is ambitious, one can still see that he is a kid trapped inside a man’s body.
Foreman (Quaid) has been around the block a few times in his life and now he faces three new things at the same time: his wife’s pregnancy, his magazine’s merger with Duryea’s conglomerate, and his daughter’s education at NYU. All of these three strands come together in different ways. Where Duryea is confused about life and what it means, Foreman is trying to figure out how he is going to deal with it.
In a way that is implicit throughout this movie, there is a real father/son relationship between Duryea and Foreman. Even when Foreman lashes out and gives Duryea a black eye, we know and understand that it is not so much out of frustration as an attempt to chastise a son that has done something wrong.
Putting a Catholic spin on a movie like this is not easy. Religion does not play a role in this movie at all, but there are things that we can learn about ourselves by watching it.
For one thing, the relationship between Duryea and Foreman reminds me of so many stories that one can read about excitable novices and irascible older monks that have been at the job for years. The familiar story about St. Therese and the nun who constantly complained about how slow or fast she was walking is a reminder of this.
There is also a feeling of jealousy that permeates this relationship. Since Duryea is Foreman’s boss, it is not easy for Foreman to reconcile himself to this. He wonder how the heck someone so young could rise so fast to such a high position.
In St. Therese’s time something similar happened when the nuns of the Carmel really got upset that the Martin girls just kept coming in. They decided to keep St. Therese a novice for as long as they possible could. Yet St. Therese responded to this with a great deal of kindness and forbearance.
Sometimes, then, good movies can teach us a great deal about our lives and how we are to deal with other human beings. No matter how bad the soundtrack is or how exaggerated the acting, a good movie can teach us as much about ourselves as a novel by Dickens or Hemingway. Happy viewing!
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!