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The Girl Next Door /

Rated: R

Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Paul Dano, Chris Marquette

Directed by: Luke Greenfield

Produced by: Charles Gordon, Harry Gittes, Marc Sternberg
Written by:
Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner, and Brent Goldberg
Distributor: 20th Century Fox


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     The Girl Next Door, simply put, is an amazing film, one that preaches with joy and wonder, as great fiction should. It exhibits an imaginative situation with daring realism in its content. Ferociously directed by Luke Greenfield; shockingly written by Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner, and Brent Goldberg; and amazingly performed by leads Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbet, this is a movie to cherish and remember. Itís a good, old throwback to the days of Risky Business and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, completely not reliant upon the potty humor which practically destroys new-age teen-comedies like American Pie. When watching The Girl Next Door, I was enchanted, mesmerized by the mastery I was witnessing. It is one of the few movies that I can truthfully claim I never wanted to end.


     Wait. Iím getting ahead of myself. Most of you reading this havenít seen the movie yet. For all you know, the flickís promotional material exhibits a clear example of what the movie supposedly depicts. The truth is, the ads couldnít be more wrong than they are. The Girl Next Door is not a crude, vile creation, composed only of disgusting, gross-out gags, concerning every function of the body. Itís actually a sweet, crowd-pleasing combination of wit and verism, one of the best movies of the year.


     The story is about a geeky high school senior named Matthew (Hirsch), whose new next door neighbor, Danielle (Cuthbert), is a porn star. She does take him on wild adventures, romancing him, leading to a downward spiral of events between him and her adult-video-obsessed, vicious boss. But, there arenít any extremely graphic sex scenes. And no, Elisha Cuthbert does not have a single scene involving full-frontal nudity. The Girl Next Door has the required amount of eroticism to get its point across and move the story along, but from a moralistic standpoint, its parts are nowhere near as explicit as, say, Pulp Fiction. It may seem like a pretty gutsy comparison, but The Girl Next Door is in the same league as Tarantinoís film.


     The relationship between Danielle and Matthew actually feels real, surprisingly, even though their time together accounts for the majority of the laughs in the film. Emile Hirsch, who gave a genre-defying performance in The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, delivers more brilliance here. Matthew is a character who has never been in a relationship and, at first, goes to extremes for Danielle because she is willing to acknowledge him as a boyfriend. But, in the midst of this, and all the craziness he puts himself through for her, he realizes how much he does care for her. Sure, there is a profound contrivance in this movie, but itís a rewarding one. The storyline may lack credibility, but in the process, the characters confront real emotions with real consequences. Conventions, predictability, and marketing campaigns aside, there is an abundance of feeling in The Girl Next Door. Audiences will certainly take this for granted, dismissing the movie as an ordinary one, but if they were only to look between the film-reels, they would discover a beautiful truth. Seeing that on The Girl Next Doorís opening day (yesterday), it only grossed two-and-a-half million dollars, its distributor, Fox, couldíve advertised it for what it really was, and made an equal amount of money, if not more.


     There is one thing I cannot deny about what Fox has claimed The Girl Next Door to be, and that is that it is often sexy. Elisha Cuthbert fuels the picture with a gorgeously beautiful presence, which is, in itself, a site to behold. We develop a pure attachment to her character as she romances Matthew, and when we see her become squeezed into her bossís grasp, modeling live to promote her pornography, it hurts. When this happens, we are not only sympathetic for Matthew, but her, as well. She is, in essence, throwing her body away for something so superficial, when she has the ability to experience something as exhilarating as her love of Matthew instead. However, he cares about her enough to strengthen her vulnerabilities and help her in getting out of a business she is desperate to never see again, throughout the film. There have been accusations made by critics that The Girl Next Door glamorizes pornography, but these are completely false. It is definitely the intent of director Luke Greenfield to denote such material, albeit only completely defined by the end of the picture.


     Greenfield has a style that honors the predecessors which noticeably inspired The Girl Next Door, creating an extremely welcome 1980ís mood and feel. Behind the camera, he allows the picture to feel as breezy and watchable as it is, letting development to be construed, but still crafting it with the light-heartedness it needs to be successful. Much of the reason why I never felt empty when viewing it was because of the brisk pacing and melodic tones Greenfield institutes in his style. No matter how great the script of any movie is, the movement of a story is crucial. Thankfully, The Girl Next Door does not suffer any losses as a result of lack of attention to this.


     A partial reason as to why Greenfieldís work is so inspired is because he has been blessed with a range of material, to fill every possible gap in the flick. His utilization of Matthewís friends Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitz (Paul Dano) is key. The two offer tremendous support for the general scheme of The Girl Next Door exactly how supporting characters should. They add small, but memorable touches to the picture, never overstaying their welcome onscreen. Sweet, innocent laughs come from Eliís obsession with pornography and Klitzís overall dorkiness, especially during the finale, in which he is complemented by one of Danielleís fellow adult-film stars.


     As I left The Girl Next Door, the last few credits were rolling and the title song of ďBaba O'Riley (Teenage Wasteland)Ē by The Who had finished playing, softly, highlighting the end of the charactersí enormous journeys through the rather short period of time the film covers. I greeted the theatre manager, who standing at the exit door. He handed me a coupon for a free ticket for a movie of my choice, because they had begun the screening I had attended twenty minutes later than they were supposed to. This almost felt entirely unnecessary, considering the wonderful experience they had just presented me with. I would pay fifty dollars to see The Girl Next Door a second time, let alone zero. If I choose to use the pass for a repeat viewing of it, Iíll be more than elated. Itís only early-April and Iíve seen three great films this year, so far. And even with the tremendous-looking, grand lineup of films ahead, I doubt that any will be able to strike as great a chord with me as this one has.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (4.10.2004)

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