Saturday, July 27, 2013

Movie #201: The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door is a 2004 sex comedy starring Elisha Cuthbert, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano and James Remar.

Matt (Hirsh) is a high school senior who wants to go into politics, has been accepted to Georgetown, and is trying to win a scholarship for moral fiber. His buddies are meek Klitz (Dano) and porn-obsessed, sexist jerk Eli (Marquette), his folks are nice enough, and he's under pressure, but bored and unfulfilled. And then Danielle (Cuthbert) moves in next door, he sees her undress, she comes over and winds up forcing him to strip in the street, and they begin a relationship. She's running from her past in Los Angeles, and he's having fun with someone his own age but with a lot more life experience.

And then the truth comes out - she's a former porn star. He takes his idiot friend's advice and takes her to a cheap motel, and, heartbroken, she returns to the life, with her manipulative, slimeball manager/ex Kelly (Olyphant) dragging her along.

Hirsch "rescues" her, but this brings him into conflict with Kelly, who cons him out of $25K that he'd raised to bring a Cambodian genius to the US. So he winds up partnering with another porn producer (Remar) to make a sex-ed video, which brings in the money and everything works fine!

So, what's really going on in this movie? It could be a story about how a dude redeems a girl or a girl saves a boy from being boring, but it's really about neither. The story arc is about Matt, first and last, but it's about him digging himself into a hole because of his feelings for Danielle, and then digging himself back out by thinking a bit outside the box. And that's nice. Certainly that's better than if the movie had been about him going to LA to "spring" Danielle from the industry; there is a little of that, but it's midway through the movie and not the main arc. Everyone has some issues, but the only one presented as close to irredeemable is Kelly, and the movie treats him strangely - he's very much the antagonist, but he's also a weird mentor figure for Matt, and in the end Matt sends him a box of cigars, signifying friendship or forgiveness.

The most troubling thing about the movie, I think, is Eli's constant banging on about "hot chicks". He's very much a misogynist white nerd, and I guess I'm getting more sensitive to that of late. It's like, I expect it from the jocks in the movie, but I want the protagonists to be a little better. Ah, well.

The movie's funny in a lot of places. Cuthbert manages to deliver her lines, but is mostly bland. The glimmers of talent come from Hirsch (later to star in Into the Wild) and Dano (later to kick ass in Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood). But it's not as good as I remember it.

My grade: C+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo