Feeling imprisoned by her marriage to cuddly slob Phil and her job at Retail Rodeo, small-town Texan Justine 'Teenee' Last is excited by the passion of brooding newcomer Holden, until the youth's dark and twisted obsessions force her to make some drastic choices.
Jennifer Aniston must have hugged herself when this mordant, adventurous satire, with excellent indie credentials from the writer and the director who brought us the weird and wonderful Chuck & Buck, came her way. It absolutely does wonders for her bid to be considered more than just a Friend.
If initially one scoffs at cute Rachel, I mean, Aniston playing a straggle-haired cashier at a tacky discount store, she brings you around smartish with her emotional but reflective performance. And the boys are good too.
Anyone could tell dispirited Justine that succumbing to a mysterious young thing first seen reading Catcher In The Rye is probably not a wise move, but you can sympathise. Delusional drop-out Holden is obviously cracked, but in an adorable kind of way. When they go to his house, his mother calls him Tom. "Tom?" queries Justine. "It's my slave name", he replies.
Justine is more intelligent, sensitive and disappointed than those around her, trapped in a world where dining out means chowing down at Se?or Tuna, and lovers tryst in a skin-crawlingly rancid motel. Home is where house-painter hubby John C. Reilly and buddy Tim Blake Nelson are couch-bound stoners, like Beavis and Butt-Head only with bigger bellies.
Work is where fellow cashier Cheryl's (Deschanel) insolent in-store p.a. announcements get her demoted to cosmetic counter makeovers (hilariously promoting a Coco The Clown look).
Meanwhile, screenwriter Mike White plays the Bible-thumping security guard whose reply to "Happy Halloween" is, "I'm not a pagan, but thank you." It's more than enough to make a good girl go crazy, let alone bad.
Aniston's deadpan voiceover narration nicely summarises Justine's spiralling crises of conscience, contending with death, temptation, blackmail and a fertility fiasco. Sly references to Gustav Flaubert's landmark novel of girlish dreams blasted, Madame Bovary, are sneaked in for fun but, happily, Justine does not share Emma B's capacity for ruin.
Seriously funny. White's writing has sharp jabs and compassionate observation, while Arteta balances the comic and the tragic superbly.