The basic gist of this film is boiled down to ‘teen romantic comedy’ meets Fight Club – Michael Cera plays Nick Twisp, who invents a cigarette-smoking, thin-moustache-wearing, smooth-talking alter ego called François Dillinger so that he can impress a girl. Therefore, the film needs a good central performance or, rather, two performances; fortunately, Cera is up to the task – he distinguishes the two characters through his acting (and not just the moustache), and he does a really good job of a strong leading role.
The film, adapted from a huge novel, is an absurdist and entertaining film, as the Dillinger persona causes Twisp to do more outrageous things in order to win the girl’s heart, eventually turning Twisp into a wanted criminal for the actions that ensue. It has a dark and bizarre logic that runs through it, even as events run more and more out of control, with a rich vein of black humour and intelligence running though it.
One of the nice aspects of the film is the cast – Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Fred Willard, M Emmet Walsh, Justin Long, Zack Galifianakis all have small parts but they make their characters believable and three-dimensional, enriching the film with their presence. It’s odd to see them in such a small indie film, but they don’t destroy the balance of the reality the film creates.
The film is good but it doesn’t stretch to great; it’s a delicate balance between absurd/quirky and slightly annoying or implausible, something that I don’t think that the director Miguel Arteta achieves. His milieu seems to celebrate an awkwardness – Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl celebrate the alien quality of their central characters and situations – and I always feel that I don’t want to see them again, even if I enjoyed them enough the first time round.