pretty old story. Boy watches girl take off her clothes through
her bedroom window. Girl catches boy watching girl. Girl takes
boy out for drive and they fall in love. Oh, yeah, and girl
turns out to be a porn star trying to start over.
you enter the realm of the teen sex comedy, you have to give
over to fantasy on some level. And despite some alleged pretensions
otherwise, The Girl Next Door is really just an amped-up
teen sex comedy. As such, it takes its fantasy elements pretty
far, coming very close to popping the delicate bubble of belief.
Preposterous, morally conflicting (and conflicted) but strangely
sweet, The Girl Next Door is undeniably funny.
element seems a shame, as in its first five minutes the movie
establishes that director Luke Greenfield and his screenwriters
(five or so) understand high school life. Using yearbook photos
as a motif to frame the story, Greenfield captures realistic
snapshots of the various high school cliques while setting
student body president Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) apart
from the pack. Not in a good way, either; despite his leadership
skills, he's too tightly wound to really fit in with his peers.
does have two friends that form, as they later call themselves,
"the tripod." Would-be filmmaker Eli (Chris Marquette) serves
as Matthew's sexual advisor, having learned much from his
extensive porn collection. Nervously hanging back is the unfortunately
and unbelievably named Klitz ("…with a K"), played by Paul
Dano in one of this year's ugliest haircuts. Probably for
social survival, all three keep a low profile at school, until
Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) bursts into their lives.
past the revelation of Danielle's day job, the movie maintains
a gentle tone for a bit. Occasionally the script dives into
Matthew's head, revealing his innermost fears for a few laughs,
but the "reality" still stays rooted. That is, until Eli figures
out who Danielle really is and Matthew handles the knowledge
the porn world intrudes into the suburban teen one, and things
go awry. Still funny, but definitely awry.
being under age, Matthew has no problem getting into a strip
club, nor crashing the Adult Film Convention in Las Vegas.
It might be believable once, but not twice, especially as
Hirsch has that awkward look between teenager and young adult.
No way is this guy not going to get carded.
as the movie revels in its concept, it also passes judgment
on it. Danielle's ex-boyfriend now manager Kelly (Timothy
Olyphant) oozes through all of his scenes, alternately funny,
charming and dangerous. There's nothing upstanding about the
guy, but you can see why his hustle works. And even though
it plays as a way to make "the tripod" look cool to the other
students, it's more than a little disturbing as Kelly toys
with offering some high school cheerleaders modeling jobs.
to be fair, there's a "good guy" porn czar, too, in the form
of Hugo Posh (James Remar). Mysteriously, he seems to live
in the same town as Matthew, and will offer he and Danielle
an awkward redemption.
does seek redemption. When she returns to a life of porn,
we are meant to see it as a fall from the grace of her true
love with a high school student. Confronting her in her outfit
of mesh and leather, Matthew looks soulfully and utters, "you're
better than this." If this were reality, a deleted scene would
include the line, "…but please don't throw away that outfit."
no doubt that for some, pornography is absolutely a demeaning
experience. There are probably both Kellys and Hugos in the
business. Yet when Matthew's third act plan requires some
of Danielle's porn star friends (Sung Hi Lee and Amanda Swisten)
to do what they do best, nobody seems to mind that there's
no one to pull them out of the life.
all have a good sense of timing and great screen presence.
When he gets some age to his boyish face, Hirsch could turn
out to be a strong leading man. Marquette plays his perverted
friend role fearlessly, and if you think that's a hindrance,
remember that John Cusack started out in similar roles. As
for Cuthbert, she's simply luminous in both innocence and
bad girl and has a believable chemistry with Hirsch.
most of the movie gets neatly stolen away by Olyphant. He
made barely a blip last year in Dreamcatcher, but here
he blows everybody off the screen. When Kelly turns vicious,
it catches both Matthew and the audience by surprise, though
it probably shouldn't. Olyphant has charmed everybody that
the movie has its charms, but tries to have its cake and eat
it, too. (The flavor is left to your own personal fetish,
like it, but it will probably leave you feeling a little dirty.