> Volume 6 > Number 15


Luke Greenfield

Emile Hirsch
Elisha Cuthbert
Timothy Olyphant
James Remar
Chris Marquette
Paul Dano
Timothy Bottoms

Release: 27 Mar. 04

The Girl Next Door


Although some critics have long given a pass to Paul Brickman’s Risky Business and Paul Weitz’ American Pie for the frankness with which those dealt with the struggling hormones of the teenage boy, their charms have long been misunderstood by me. While I do see them as momentarily engaging, with scenes of true reflection and weight, these are films that ultimately offer masturbatory idealizations of sexuality, friendship, and redemption. A score by Tangerine Dream may sound wonderful, and girls may woo over Tom Cruise in his underwear, but what depth can be found in this supposedly lofty film where the 1980s materialism is, at best, symbolized in a crystal egg and the equalizer on a stereo.

And so, even though American Pie is only five years old and still producing sequels, another variation on the convention comes in the form of Luke Greenfield’s The Girl Next Door. But, in what could be my softening with age to such ego- (and penis-) stroking mentality in films, I was charmed by The Girl Next Door, even as I simultaneously became irate as it walked into every cliché I wished it to be freed from.

Blame this on the writer, who never trusts his material or his actors enough to let them mingle into the equilibrium they approximate. With an amazingly likable cast including the heretofore unlikable Emile Hirsch as the over-achieving student noticing he hasn’t any memories to take from high school as he prepared for college; and Elisha Cuthbert as the porn actress who’s willing to give him those memories, or at least take his virginity while trying. What I liked most was the unpolished veneer of their acting styles, which gave them an inarticulate, slightly confused relationship that the dialogue strains to create.

Before the film can become too sickeningly intoxicated on this coming-of-age tale, Tim Olyphant, the go-to-guy for movie manics, delivers one of the year’s finest performances as a porn producer afraid to lose his biggest money maker to some happy suburban lifestyle. It’s the type of performance that’s built on seven different character changes, sometimes within the same scene. He hurtles through the film, massacring the purification of the hooker with a heart of gold. He’s the only unpredictable thing in a fairly obvious film

©2004, David Perry,, 9 April 2004