Pin It
Favorite

Porn Pal 

So you're a typically horny 18-year-old high school senior, but you're still a virgin. You're student body president, but only because all the other kids are too busy drinking and going to the beach and making out to bother with something as unimportant as student government. Your only pals are geeky guys like yourself, just as horny and just as sexually inexperienced. Then the most amazing thing happens. A gorgeous young blonde arrives to house-sit next door and immediately does what all gorgeous young blonde house-sitters do: She begins to strip naked with all the lights on and the curtains open.

Is it a sin to look? You'd have to be a saint not to look. Then another amazing thing happens: She likes you; she really likes you. And then the most amazing thing happens: You find out she's a porn star. Is this every guy's wet dream or what? Such is the premise of The Girl Next Door, Luke Greenfield's largely pedestrian sex comedy which functions as a kind of peep show for the set fresh out of bobby sox and still battling pimples.

Written by the scribe committee of Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner and Brent Goldberg, The Girl Next Door is the story of Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) and his two best buddies, fellow nerds Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano). Matt is the lucky fellow with a porn star named Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) for a squeeze. But why they like each other is a major mystery. The movie may state that Matt's 18, but he looks about 12 and exhibits the maturity of an 8-year-old. Danielle, meanwhile, is supposed to be "about Matt's age," but she's played by a 21-year-old who looks closer to 35. Danielle's looks might not be a wrong decision if the movie had any interest in her character other than her sexuality. Yes, she's pretty, but her initial interaction with Matt is mean, condescending and uncaring. That he keeps panting after her perhaps illustrates once again that men will accept almost anything if they think sex remains a possibility. At a tender moment, Danielle bats her eyes at Matt and asks tearfully, "Why do you think so much of me?" I'm surprised no one in the audience yelled out, "Because, stupid, he's an 18-year-old virgin, and you're a porn star."

I will acknowledge that The Girl Next Door does deliver a handful of mild laughs and one fairly clever surprise at the end. And I guess that sets it apart from most entries in this woeful genre. It doesn't resort to bathroom humor. And it does offer a wickedly compelling performance by Timothy Olyphant as Kelly, Danielle's satanic former boyfriend and porn-film producer. Kelly's scenes are the film's most interesting because he's so slippery. He's violent and threatening all the while he's charming and supportive. You never know what he's going to do next or where he's going to end up.

But there's nothing here to demand your entertainment buck. Even the sex is tepid, a come-on without a payoff. The plotting is barely half-hearted. In an element so obvious it might as well have arrows pointing at it, Matt has raised $25,000 so a Cambodian boy can study in America. The picture doesn't bother to suggest how Matt raised that much money, from whom or why. And as soon as Kelly accompanies Matt to the bank to deposit the money, we know that the entire purpose of the Cambodian boy is to provide a circumstance that Matt might have $25,000 Kelly can steal. Comparably, the film suggests that Matt won't be able to attend Georgetown University, his dream school, unless he wins a scholarship in a public speaking contest. But the parents seem perfectly prosperous and without financial burdens that might account for this detail. The scholarship business is contrived to heighten tension surrounding the speaking contest, which then turns out to be almost painfully ludicrous. The most egregious aspect of this picture, however, is its indifference to Danielle's character. She has absolutely no back story whatsoever. We're told that she's a porn star who has decided to "change her life." But we aren't given even a clue as to what led her into performing sex acts on film. Christine Fugate's riveting 1999 documentary, also titled The Girl Next Door, shows us the shockingly banal reasons some attractive women seek careers in porn. Presumed reasons of abuse or financial desperation aren't always present. But Fugate takes Stacey Valentine seriously as a person and makes us care and worry about her. Director Greenfield and his writers leave Danielle so blank they needn't have given her a name. She's an emblem: porn star. And though she makes noises about wanting to leave the skin trade, she never seems even remotely disgusted with it. And that's essential to the film's strategy. Porn is its come hither. So it has to be left alluring and never thought in any way degrading.

click to enlarge Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) and Matthew (Emile Hirsch) try to work through their issues in The Girl Next Door.
  • Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) and Matthew (Emile Hirsch) try to work through their issues in The Girl Next Door.
Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Submit an event Jump to date

Movies This Week

More Filmtimes

or

Latest in Film: Previews and Reviews

  • Review: Ghostbusters

    Paul Feig’s women-led reboot hushes the naysayers with breezy summer fun
    • Jul 18, 2016
  • Review: De Palma

    Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow helm the filmmaker's compelling retrospective
    • Jul 11, 2016
  • More »

More by Rick Barton

Readers also liked…

© 2016 Gambit
Powered by Foundation