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THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (R) (2004)

20th Century Fox / Regency

Official Site

Director: Luke Greenfield

Producers: Harry Gittes, Charles Gordon, Marc Sternberg

Written by: Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner, Brent Goldberg

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar

Rating:

Many say the premise of the new comedy The Girl Next Door is every male teenager’s dream: falling for a girl who moves next door who happens to be—what else?—a former hardcore pornography actress. However, the girl moving in next door in my teenage dream was probably more along the lines of Faye Valentine. But Faye’s a cartoon, and of course thinking a doodled character in a cartoon is hot is nuts.

The girl of this film is Danielle (Cuthbert), and the teenage dreamer is the over-achieving high-schooler, Matthew (Hirsch). Graduation and prom are around the corner, and while most of the seniors are going nuts, having fun, and creating wild memories of their last four years, Matthew seems rather regretful that he’s spent most of his time studying. Matthew has become the class president and was accepted into his chosen college, but he cannot attend unless he gets awarded a special scholarship that is given to a person of utmost “moral fiber.” Despite all this, Matthew seems to find his risk-free life rather boring. So a free-spirited liberal, Danielle, comes along to break the conservative Matthew out of his shell and turn his world upside down.

I didn’t really want to buy into the film at first, but not because of the porn star content. I personally feel that the premise of an aggressive woman pushing a restrained man out of his social bubble has grown really tired on film. Overall, that’s the biggest drawback the film suffers. The movie knows the conventions and doesn’t stray from them at all. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it makes the story utterly predictable.

I warmed up to story once the narrative changed gears a bit—after Matthew finds out Danielle used to be a porn star. In the course of their relationship, Matthew makes a mistake. Then, Danielle’s old producer, the very sleazy Kelly (the charismatic Olyphant) shows up ready to return Danielle to the adult film business. So while Danielle has broken Matthew out of his shell, it seems that Matthew needs to re-build a shell for Danielle.

The supporting cast is very strong, especially Matthew’s two best friends (their “tripod”), Eli (Marquette) and Klitz (Dano). And yes, the fact that Dano’s character is named Klitz is fairly milked for all it’s worth. Marquette really shines as porn-obsessed, amateur filmmaker Eli, a really big talker when it comes to the ladies who’s powerless in any real situation. Marquette’s performance is a contrast to the shy and restrained Dano as… Klitz (it just feels so dirty when I type that name out, yet I can’t stop doing it).

I was impressed by the performance of 19-year-old Hirsch, still somewhat of a newcomer. I’m not a fan of Elisha Cuthbert, who many see every week, usually getting tied up by some insane deviant or running toward the foreground wearing a skin-tight shirt on “24” as Kim Bauer. However, Cuthbert does a serviceable job here, and she’s a knock-out, though I can’t say I truly bought her as a porn star.

Going back to the conventions of this film, another annoying aspect was the derivative soundtrack which seems to use almost every pop song from just about every other romantic teen comedy that’s come down the pike in the ’80s and ’90s. What I’d give for filmmakers to be bold for once and use something like The Seatbelts or The Pillows in a mainstream Hollywood film. Just some kind of music people have not heard on film before, much like what T Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers did with the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

The Girl Next Door is a fun, humorous film with some cute actors and heartening themes, but for the most part, it’s still a slave to the conventions of its genre. I must say I was impressed by the work of director Luke Greenfield, whose first feature was The Animal, probably one of the worst movies of 2001. So at least he’s come a long way since that stinker. Sorry Mr. Schneider.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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