The Girl Next Door
A shy, clean-cut honors
student who is worried about getting into the college of his choice meets a
woman who works as a sex professional. At first he is shy and afraid
to get involved with her, but he is goaded on by his two best friends, one a
sex-obsessed slob and the other an uptight nerd. She teaches him the
ways of love and sex. He teaches her to respect herself and that she
is better than her work. Problems arise when he meets a criminal from
her past who does not want to let her out of the world of sex for sale.
His big chance to get into the college is further complicated by the
relationship. Eventually, she gets some of her adult work friends to
help him make some money with his high school friends. All of this
happens right under the noses of his rich, thickheaded parents.
I suppose if you are going
to base your film on a teen sex comedy of the 80s, you can't do too
much better than emulating Risky Business.
Emile Hirsch plays Matthew,
the Tom Cruise role here, and he is very likable. This film will not
be a breakthrough role for him like the original was for Cruise, but I hope
it does open up more opportunities for him. Elisha Cuthbert plays
Danielle, the Rebecca DeMornay role of the worldly older woman stuck in the
sex trade, but looking for a way out. Timothy Olyphant is actually
terrific as Kelly the criminal porn producer... his is the only role that
actually improves on the original's Joe Pantoliano as Guido the killer pimp.
Chris Marquette (from Joan of Arcadia) is funny in the Curtis
Armstrong role of slob buddy, Paul Dano is perfectly fine as a redo of
Bronson Pinchot's uptight loser buddy.
This film is blatant about
its borrowing. Even little plot points derive directly from the source
material. Both films have scenes in which the male lead drives a
Porsche. The music is similar, with much of The Girl Next Door's
score emulating Tangerine Dream's moody synth score for the older film, and
both films include a snippet of Muddy Water's blues classic "Mannish Boy."
Oh, sure, they do change
things up a bit. The girl is a porn star instead of a hooker.
The boy wants to go to Georgetown instead of Yale. His parents aren't
out of town for much of the movie. The Porsche doesn't end up
underwater. As far as I remember, Hirsch never wears Ray-Bans.
The film does have an inevitable prom scene towards the end which does not
borrow from Risky Business, but pretty much every other high school
comedy (or drama) ever.
However, the question
remains, if you are going to try to revamp a movie that was perfectly good
on its own, shouldn't you add a little something to the equation?
Shouldn't you even just try to come close to being as good as the source
material? In these ways, The Girl Next Door falls way short.
It is a shame, because I do
like the cast and they much deserve better than this. Hirsch is
charming in his role, but you do find it a little hard to root for Matthew
though, because he really does seem like a spoiled kid who expects
everything in the world to be handed to him. Matthew keeps insisting
that he can't afford to go to Georgetown without a scholarship.
Frankly, living in a gorgeous sprawling suburban home like he has with his
parents, you have to agree that the nerdy science geek and Latina girl who
are his biggest competition for the scholarship are probably much more
deserving of the scholarship than he is.
Cuthbert does the best she
possibly can in her role, but Danielle is not a character, she is just a
plot device. She only exists to be the dream lover for Matthew or to
be abused by her former porn producer. There is not one
thing that the character does that is for herself. She is simply there
to be at the whim of the men in her life. So, no
matter how attractive or likable Cuthbert is, we can't really worry about
what happens to Danielle, because she does not seem to care enough to live
her own life. At least she never gets caught in a bear trap like she
did last season in her day job as Kim Bauer on the series 24.
Like I said earlier, Timothy
Olyphant steals most scenes he appears in as Kelly the porn producer.
He may be a bad guy, but he is passionate, he is charming, he is determined,
he is a user and he is Machiavellian in his plans. Part of the problem
with this film is that Matthew's relationship with Kelly is much more
interesting than his relationship with Danielle. It gets to the point
where we want to see more of the two guys and just get rid of the girl.
Olyphant is able to pull this off by the sheer force of his personality,
even though the writing keeps letting him down. For example, they are
obviously trying for catch-phrase status for the line "Was the juice worth
the squeeze?," making Olyphant say it a few times and later having Kirsch
say it and write out a variation. However, honestly it's just a really
weak line that has no chance of catching on.
through the film, Matthew is trying to keep everything from his obtuse parents.
His father is played by Timothy Bottoms, who is a long, long way from his
own days of playing a student in
the movies, particularly starring in the classic 1973 drama
Paper Chase. Bottoms is given nothing to do here, just be a
dad and look on with either disappointment or pride depending on the situation.
However, his presence here got me to thinking about how much movies have
changed in the past thirty years. In The Paper Chase, Bottoms'
character of James Hart broke into the Harvard Law Library to sneak a peek
at his law professor's student notebooks. In
Girl Next Door, the character of his son breaks into the high school
library to film a porn film. I'm not sure exactly what this says about
the changes in modern cinema and society, but I don't think it's probably a
Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: April 11, 2004.