NEW YORK, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Actor John C. Reilly has dubbed the small-town drama he stars in with Jennifer Aniston "the feel-weird movie of the year." Numerous film critics, however, are noting "The Good Girl" for Aniston's terrific dramatic turn as a depressed sales clerk -- a true departure from her cutie-pie character, Rachel, on the popular TV sit-com "Friends."
"I was feeling stuck in my career," Aniston explained to reporters in New York recently. "This bittersweet thing of this wonderful show and yet I feel like a product on the show. (It made me wonder,) 'How are you going to escape Rachel?' Rachel is my baggage, it's old leather luggage that I love."
Asked if it was difficult to move from the ideal world of television comedy to the bleaker setting of independent film, the 33-year-old style icon replied: "That's what's so wonderful about it. ... How Mike White wrote these characters so complex, dark and depressed, and somehow you love them and have complete compassion for them. Phil (Reilly's character) I think is so loveable and heartbreaking. Everyone is so human, that's sort of the fun of doing an independent movie, because there's a greater risk taken in the stories as opposed to the mainstream, commercial movies that are appealing to a mass audiences."
In "The Good Girl," Aniston plays Justine, a woman who longs for a life more fulfilling than the one she shares with her house-painter husband (Reilly, of "The Perfect Storm") and his ever-present buddy, Bubba, (Tim Blake Nelson, of "O, Brother, Where Art Thou?") Then one day, Justine discovers something of a soul mate in her co-worker (Jake Gyllenhaal, of "Bubble Boy") -- a creative, passionate young man who represents a chance for her to escape into a new world of emotional and sexual awakening. But when the affair quickly turns from liberation to strange obsession, Justine finds herself ensnared in a chaotic web of blackmail, larceny and love.
It's easy to see why "Friends" fans might shrink from the concept of their glamorous, funny Rachel playing a dowdy, deeply flawed woman. But Aniston said she hopes this film will help distinguish her as serious actress, not just an Emmy-nominated comedienne.
"I loved it, everything about it," said Mrs. Brad Pitt of the role, adding that she doesn't think "Friends" devotees will "riot" over her choice. "As scary as it was, the challenge of it, being able to work with these actors. Yes, at some point I know it may or may not do something for my career, it could destroy it and I'll never work again. It was more for my selfish need to see if I could do it."
Aniston recalled that her decision to play the "painfully real" character of Justine came almost immediately after reading White's script.
"On page three (of the screenplay), just her opening monologue," Aniston remarked. "The first thing you think of is, 'We all have battles with sadness and depression,' and I grew up, definitely, squishing that and becoming a funny person, which was a wonderful source of survival, and I got lucky enough to make a living at it."
Of course, success wasn't always so apparent for the actress, who worked as a waitress and bike messenger before she made it big.
"I was a night messenger in New York for about three months," she noted. "I wasn't the most coordinated with the bike and all the cars. I actually loved it. I had fun. I got to ride the bike and had this thing on my back, I looked like one of those cool guys. I just didn't do it very well. So, I got fired."
So, did that early failure inform her performance as an ordinary woman in "The Good Girl"?
"Well, you don't know my life or my history or anything," the blue-eyed beauty pointed out. "I mean (that perfect image is) just what you see in a glossy magazine. Anybody can lie a lot. I'm taller, I'm thinner, my skin is perfect, my eyes are crystal clear. It's amazing what computers can do."
Aniston, who also admitted she would like to have a baby soon, can next be seen on the big screen in "Bruce Almighty," with Jim Carrey, and the ninth season of "Friends" begins next month.
"The Good Girl" is in theaters now.