Tools of the Trading Floor
The Good Guy (2010)
“See how far a little trust can get ya?” Such phrases slide easily out of Tommy Fielding’s (Scott Porter) mouth in Julio DePietro’s “The Good Guy.” A clean-cut, smooth-talking Wall Street salesman, Tommy invites a kind of congenial admiration. He’s slick, but he doesn’t seem sly; he’s great at his job, but he doesn’t come across as arrogant. Above all, he’s charming to a fault and perfectly gallant toward his new girlfriend, Beth (Alexis Bledel). At least, that’s what he’ll have you believe for the first half of the film.
Trust is exactly what is at stake in “The Good Guy” – and not only for its characters. While the muddled love triangle that will eventually enmesh Tommy, Beth and Tommy’s new employee, Daniel (Bryan Greenberg), becomes evident right off the bat, less obvious at first is the way the film ensnares its viewers in a shrewd ploy that challenges our willingness to simply give into the narrative as it is presented to us. Narrated by Tommy, the story eventually undercuts itself to reveal its true nature of smoke-and-mirrors – not everything actually is as it has seemed.
To be more precise, about halfway through the film, Tommy begins to tell us the whole story – allowing a fuller, more accurate version of himself to filter through. Rather than an altruistic individual who offers a sales position to coffee-boy Daniel on impulse just to give the guy a chance, Tommy starts to seem more like an opportunistic asshole who sees a way to stay ahead – in this case, “going to bat for that guy just because [he knows he] would own him.”
And it’s not just the perception of Tommy that evolves with the narrative: new boy Daniel at first seems to be of a somewhat questionable nature. As Tommy grooms the finance-clueless, Banana Republic-wearing Daniel into a stylish, confident Wall Street charmer, Daniel purposefully begins ingratiating himself with Beth. He joins her formerly-all-female book club and openly flirts with her over a double-date dinner. So who actually is the good guy in the picture?
“The Good Guy” borrows a distinct narrative device (and, one would imagine, to some extent its title) from Ford Madox Ford’s 1915 novel “The Good Soldier:” the unreliable narrator. (Probably not coincidentally, the novel turns up in the film as the first book read by Beth’s book club after Daniel joins.) It’s a tricky tool to put to use on the big screen, but first-time writer-director Mr. DePietro does an admirable job of it. The film conceptually examines the role of trust in the contexts of work, friendship and love, but its very mechanism also shows us just how easily we can fool ourselves – and be fooled – when we are willing to trust blindly.
To that end, “The Good Guy” serves a kind of allegorical purpose in the current climate of mistrust and resentment toward Wall Street. Figuratively, Tommy represents the financial industry into which America put our (often unquestioning) faith. Like the image of perpetual success and solidity the real Wall Street projected of itself, Tommy’s picture-perfect persona – and existence – falls apart just as things start to seem too good to be true. A former Wall Street insider himself, Mr. DePietro surely chose the name of his film carefully to highlight the dubious connotations and distinct reverberations of the term "good" as it relates to that world.
One thing is for sure: the time is ripe for a film that cuts so neatly through the bullshit of Wall Street and the guys that run it.
THE GOOD GUY
Opens on Feb. 19, 2010 in New York and Los Angeles.
Written and directed by Julio DePietro; director of photography, Seamus Tierney; edited by Ray Hubley; music by tomandandy; production designer, Tommaso Ortino; produced by Linda Moran, Rene Bastian and Mr. DePietro; released by Roadside Attractions. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is rated R.
WITH: Alexis Bledel (Beth), Scott Porter (Tommy), Bryan Greenberg (Daniel), Anna Chlumsky (Lisa), Aaron Yoo (Steve-O), Andrew McCarthy (Cash) and Andrew Stewart-Jones (Shakespeare).