The Girl Next Door (2004)

Directed by Luke Greenfield

I find the most interesting thing about The Girl Next Door is the responses to it. They seem firmly lodged in one of two extremes. Reviews I’ve seen either hate it or love it (the majority being the former).

Myself, I’m somewhere in the middle. I certainly don’t think it’s as good as some think (for example, DVD Journal). But I don’t hate it the way others do (like Roger Ebert).

The movie suffers from a premise that, as Ebert mentions, actually holds some promise. Unfortunately, it’s also the sort of premise that lends itself to the worst kind of juvenile Hollywood marketing – and this is where the movie gets torpedoed.

The movie is, basically, a conventional Hollywood teen movie – awkward teen male, inexperienced, good student but bored and out of step and anxious to live a less geeky life.

Suddenly, a fabulous looking young woman moves in next door. As it turns out, she’s a porn star.

This is where it’s potential kicks in, but also where the temptation to turn the movie into a giggly boy’s titillating sex romp comes in.

As it turns out, the movie is surprisingly restrained in this regard – well, at least compared to a piece of you-know-what like The Sweetest Thing. Of course, you would never know this from the way the movie is marketed, especially on DVD with it’s “unrated cut,” as if even more salacious material is included, the kind Hollywood couldn’t show in theatres – give me a break!

The movie actually has a certain amount of sweet romance to it, though certainly nothing ground-breaking.

Overall, it would be a fairly creditable romance but … Well, the porn star angle is a bit of a stretch, and the teen male fantasy aspect is a bit too obvious to ever fully buy into the premise.

So while you enjoy some of the performances and certain moments there is always the nagging notion … a porn star?

All in all, despite some good elements The Girl Next Door never quite manages the difficult elements it gives itself. At times, it’s a little too serious with it’s romance and at others a little too libidinous with it’s sex related elements.

But I did enjoy the movie, and honestly I was expecting a train wreck. It doesn’t crash however, though neither does it soar.

You’ll find some nice performances in the film as well by both Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert, and particularly by Timothy Olyphant as the unscrupulous though often charming and entertaining porn producer/manager.

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