Carter Duryea (Topher Grace) is a man with goals. At 26, he is heading his mega-companies cell phone sales, and is being groomed for bigger and better things. A golden opportunity is handed to Carter when his company acquires another mega company resulting in his placement in the recently acquired Sports magazine division.
The Sports publication is seen as the jewel of the newly acquired company, and even though he has zero experience with selling magazine advertisement, Carter is sure he can meet the lofty goals he boss has set.
At what should be his greatest moment, carter is troubled as his 7-month marriage to Kimberly (Selma Blair), is falling apart largely due to his workaholic nature and his inability ever to stop thinking or talking about work even when he is on vacation.
On the other side of the spectrum from Carter is Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), a father of two daughters and devoted family man, who has been a salesperson at the magazine for twenty years and until the arrival of Carter, head of the department. At 51, Dan is feeling his years as the younger and ambitious Carter seems to be his polar opposite as well as a reminder that his best years may be behind him. Further complicating matters is that Dan's wife Ann (Marg Helgenberger), is pregnant with their third child at a time when they both thought children were past them.
Despite their differences, Dan and Carter work with one another, despite conflicts over issues ranging the future of the company to planned layoffs of staff personally picked years ago by Dan. One day after inviting himself to dinner at Dan's home, Carter meets Dan's college aged daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson), who although only 21 catches the eye of Carter.
Months later a chance meeting between Alex and the recently divorced Carter gives rise to a friendship/romance between the two that causes Carter to question his life and envy the family life Dan has been able to create and maintain over the years.
Naturally Dan would not approve of the relationship between carter and Alex so they must keep this a secret as there is enough tension in the workplace due to the ever changing business dynamics.
What follows is a touching, funny, and at times bittersweet look at life, love, business, and friendship that does a remarkable job of making the characters not only real, but sympathetic as for the most part, there are no bad people in this story, only those who are confused and unsure about life.
The strength in the film is mixed well between a good script, solid direction by Paul Weitz, and solid performances by all the leads. The pacing of the film is perfect as it never seems rushed and does not drag in parts. Even when two characters are having a simple discussion over how to best approach a client, the film always holds your interest. It was refreshing to see a movie that did not take the easy way out and try to wrap everything in a pretty bow at the films end, but rather like life, left new opportunities and directions as possibilities as after all, that is what life is.
There is also a very good message to the film about what is really important in life and the need to have priorities rather than title and position as the real measure of success is happiness, security and love rather than position and material goods.
Easily the best film of 2005 and one of the better films in recent memory..
5/5 Gareth Von Kallenbach sknr.net + Syndicated Publications.
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