An Unlikely Couple
Quite often, good movies are born from an interesting pairing of opposites. Sometimes, it's the quirky chemistry generated by two actors with opposing styles; sometimes it's the pairing of two characters with vastly differing backgrounds. The main ingredient that made Analyze This so endearing to a legion of fans was the notion that a mob boss would ever need the services of a psychiatrist. With The Girl Next Door, it's the unlikely pairing of a goody-goody, high school honor student with a former porn star that provides a charming yet sexy appeal to an otherwise run-of-the-mill romantic comedy.
Emile Hirsch is Matthew, an overly ambitious high school senior on the brink of graduation. With aspirations to go to college, and an invitation to attend Georgetown, Matthew muddles through his final days of high school, realizing that he hasn't really done anything to have fun. Enter Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), who's house-sitting for her aunt. She's the same age as Matthew, and her bedroom is directly across from Mathew's. Oh, did I mention that Danielle's not too bad on the eyes? And did I bring up the fact that Matthew gets a glance of Danielle through her window as she undresses for the evening? This chance encounter sets into motion a relationship which proves to be not only Matthew's coming of age, but also the fun that was missing from his senior year.
Matthew's sex-obsessed friend Eli (Chris Marquette) informs him that Danielle has a less than stellar past. Although she did tell Matthew she recently quit her job to get a fresh start, she failed to mention her past as Athena, a burgeoning new hard-core porn star. Upon this discovery, Matthew is crushed and acts upon Eli's advice to take Danielle to a cheap motel where she soon discovers her secret is out.
It is, at first, a bit hard to imagine Elisha Cuthbert in the role of a porn star (not that I know what one looks like). Her youthful good looks and childlike charm seem too innocent and pristine for a role of such "seasoning." But as we see her in action at an adult film convention in Las Vegas, we quickly learn that angelic looks can be deceiving. Also sullying her youthful exuberance is her relationship with Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), an adult film producer with aspirations of getting her back in the business. The story actually takes a pleasant turn upon the introduction of Olyphant's character. Keeping things from becoming too sweet and comfortable, Kelly's edgy saltiness contributes to the film's R rating and gives it a wacky tinge of sexuality.
The last half of the film involves Matthew's attempts to pull Danielle back from the porn industry and into his life. Along the way we learn of a hilarious little prank. Concocted by Matthew and his sidekicks Eli and Klitz (Paul Dano), it kept the audience at the screening I attended in stitches. While made up of mostly 30 and 40-somethings, surprisingly, this particular audience laughed a lot and in all the right places. Credit goes to director Luke Greenfield and screenwriters David Wagner and Brent Goldberg for spicing up the typically formulaic teen romantic comedy with slapstick antics and fantasy sequences that never seem corny or juvenile. The Girl Next Door is funny without resorting to gross-out humor; it's smart but doesn't take itself too seriously; and it's sexy but doesn't include enough nudity to offend anyone.
Attention all teen romantic comedy films! You've just been one-upped.
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated R for strong sexual content, language and some drug/alcohol use.)
Review also posted on www.franksreelreviews.com.