Neil Young’s Film Lounge – The Girl Next Door



USA 2004 (copyright-dated 2003) : Luke GREENFIELD : 110 mins (approx)

High-flying teenager Matthew Kidman (Hirsch) is preparing to apply for Washingtons prestigious Georgetown University, the next stepping-stone on his path to a political career. Distraction arrives, however, when the slightly older, stunningly attractive Danielle (Cuthbert 24s Kim) moves in next door. The pair start dating, but their romance soon hits turbulence when Matthew discovers that Danielle has only recently retired from acting in porn movies. Further complications ensue when Danielles fomer producer Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) turns up, determined to lure his star back in front of the cameras. Events rapidly spiral out of Matthews control, with potentially disastrous consequences…

It seems as though every bus-stop in the land is currently advertising The Girl Next Door the poster features a wide-eyed Matthew gawping through a window at Danielle, who’s striking a provocative pose in a tight-fitting little red number. Though horny teenage lads will be drawn in, older audiences won’t be attracted by the title, the Dude-Wheres-My-Porn-Star premise, or the fact that director Greenfield was responsible for proudly lowbrow Rob Schneider vehicle The Animal. Its a package which also seems unlikely to impress many film critics expect plenty of broadsheet brickbats echoing US trade-bible Variety, who slated its shamelessly derivative script [which] lopes from scene to scene with little regard for pace, plausibility or tonal consistency.

Timothy Olyphant and Elisha Cuthbert in THE GIRL NEXT DOORBut as The Girl Next Door itself shows, appearances can be very deceptive this is one of the freshest, most entertaining, offbeat and unpredictable romantic comedies to have come out of mainstream Hollywood in recent years. Admittedly, the script (by Stuart Blumberg, David T Wagner and Brent Goldberg) does borrow rather heavily from Risky Business, the 1983 guilty-pleasure which propelled Tom Cruise to stardom. But their film does have a character all of its own, an anything-goes unpredictability whose oddball atmosphere recalls the more subversive examples of the 80s teen-comedy like Brian Yuznas Society (1989).

It helps that the supporting cast features top-notch character-actors like veteran James Remar – an absolute hoot in his all-too-brief appearances as porn-baron Hugo Posh and Olyphant, whose Kelly is a mad-eyed blast of ferocious charisma. His first appearance is heralded by Youth of Todays rousing hardcore-punk classic Break Down the Walls the soundtrack is notable for its nifty uses of pop and rock numbers. Leads Hirsch (who shows definite star quality) and Cuthbert make an appealing couple, and its to Greenfield and his scripwriters credit that this relationship is handled with unusual intelligence and seriousness for this type of movie. The Girl Next Door is no masterpiece, and not all of it comes off but compared with the rest of the American teen comedies that infest our screens, its positively Lubitsch-esque.

5th April, 2004
(seen 23rd January : Cineworld, Milton Keynes CinemaDays event)

by Neil Young