In a fine example of an interesting twist run amuck, writer-director Julio DePietro’s first feature gives us a standard romantic comedy, told from the perspective of the irredeemable cad who’s fated to lose the girl. Yet that structure — along with the unfortunately timed decision to set the film among loathsome Wall Street hedge-funders with all their attendant misogyny — deprives “The Good Guy” of even the genre’s most basic femme appeal. Set for a limited Feb. 19 release, the pic steadily argues its way out of an audience.
The film begins on an intriguing note, with narrator Tommy (Scott Porter) showing up at his girlfriend’s apartment on a rainy night, disheveled, drenched and in need of money. G.f. Beth (Alexis Bledel) is upstairs with another man, and only descends to deliver Tommy a wad of cash, saying, “I feel sorry for you.”
From there, it’s a flashback to several weeks prior, when the two are evidently a happy new couple and Tommy is flying high at his Wall Street firm, where he excels at screaming into two phones at the same time and trading strained “Sports Center” catchphrases with co-workers. Tasked with filling a sudden broker vacancy at the firm, Tommy turns to the underemployed office gofer, Daniel (Bryan Greenberg), and offers him a promotion.
Daniel is a sweet-natured, computer-genius Air Force veteran with a bodybuilder’s physique and a Princeton degree who loves discussing Victorian literature, fixing things around the house and helping out with the dishes — naturally, he’s utterly hopeless with women. Tommy takes Daniel under his wing, hoping to turn him into a fellow barroom lothario and boardroom shark, yet he succeeds only in turning him on to Beth, with whom he strikes up a quick rapport.
“The Good Guy” boasts a novel plot structure — though it obnoxiously tips its hand early on by discussing the unreliable narrator of Ford Madox Ford’s “The Good Soldier” at length — and DePietro’s willingness to make his characters unlikable is to be admired. Yet the film never even tries to portray Tommy and Beth’s relationship as one worth saving, so it’s tough to feel as if there’s anything at stake as Daniel begins to unravel it. And lacking much of a satirical bite, the pic’s quasi-celebration of crude laddishness becomes oppressive.
The standout perfs belong to underutilized tube stars Bledel (formerly of “Gilmore Girls”) and Greenberg (of HBO’s nascent “How to Make It in America”), while Andrew McCarthy and Anna Chlumsky make the most of underdeveloped parts. Technical work is generally solid, with actual Gotham nightspot locations giving the film a more authentic New York vibe than most similarly set concoctions.