Friday, July 08, 2005

Movie Review: The Girl Next Door (2004)

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 3/12/04
Running Time: 1:48
Rated: R (Sexual situations, profanity, nudity, brief violence)
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano

Director: Luke Greenfield
Producers: Harry Gittes, Charles Gordon, Marc Sternberg
Screenplay: Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wagner and Brent Goldberg
Music: Paul Haslinger
Studio: 20th Century Fox

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At the sound of it, a film that is both anchored on teenage raunchiness and equipped with a love story between a male high-school student and a pretty porn-star doesn’t exactly spell-out “masterpiece,” but The Girl Next Door defies this logic. Spliced together with the utmost of care, The Girl Next Door combines exceptional directing, editing, and acting, along with an alluring lead couple and a soundtrack that nearly tops all of 2004. The Girl Next Door is surprisingly fresh, magnetic, and beautiful.

Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is a studious high-school senior who has just earned his acceptance to Georgetown University. But, in order to attend this prestigious college, Matthew must awe the financial aid committee with his speech and win a scholarship to the school. Just after he makes a rough draft on a few index cards, he meets Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert). Danielle makes him strip – after she noticed Matthew sneak at peek at her through her bedroom window – and turns Matthew’s world upside-down. With each passing day, Danielle shows more-and-more spontaneity and Matthew falls harder and harder for her.

Once Matthew observes Danielle in an adult video, their relationship turns to shambles. Danielle, unsure of which way to turn, gets coaxed back into the pornography industry by her brute producer Kelly (Timothy Olyphant). At this point, Matthew must decide what is more important: his own opportunities at college or protecting the woman of his dreams.

Newcomer Emile Hirsch attempts his best Tom Cruise – in Risky Business – impression and surpasses it with style. Meanwhile, Elisha Cuthbert works the part of the spontaneous and sexy Danielle with grace and vitality. Both Emile and Elisha emit a chemistry that excites electrons simply with a bite of a lip here or a soft giggle there. At any given moment, each and every look (subtle or intended) that the pair share, is priceless. Timothy Olyphant also stands out as Danielle’s intimidating porn-producer. In addition, David Daskal from “Average Joe: Hawaii” and comedian Alonzo Boden from “Last Comic Standing” make for a few noticeable cameos.

During the film’s opening montage, that depicts the archetypal antics of high-school and the divisions between jocks and nerds, David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” plays. This perfectly chosen song is merely foreshadowing to the additional top-quality music to come. At a captivating moment in the plot, Matthew has a choice to either succumb to the fact that he is a nerd and live life by the book, or throw his inhibitions to the wind. This is the precise moment where Matthew launches his movement from zero to hero, and it is accented perfectly by David Gray’s “This Year’s Love.” Also, the uses of The Verve’s “Lucky Man” and The Who’s “Teenage Wasteland” are unforgettable. The Girl Next Door truly possesses a soundtrack that, with each song, liberates the mind and unshackles the heart.

The integration of the Uncle Sam poster, the shift from briefs to boxers, and the continuous homage and established parallels between the lead protagonist and JFK are all tactful tidbits that add to the picture’s splendor. In fact, every individual scene that this movie contains borders on brilliance. I just wish Greenfield would have focused one-minute more at the close on the romance and less time on the progress of the sex-tape.

At its shell, it is a perverted rated-R movie, with the spirit of a PG-13 romp—on the same page as the American Pies; but at its core, it is a fine coming-of-age romance that radiates a desire to be spontaneous and carefree. No matter what your mood, The Girl Next Door will lift you up and impart the importance of unconditional love.

The Girl Next Door is the ultimate teen movie. It provides numerous incidences of knee-slapping laughter; yet, it encourages being acutely aware of the world’s surroundings and ignoring the temptations of superficiality in order to find love. Ever since I first saw this movie in 2004, I have had a crush on it—a crush that I can’t imagine ever fading. The Girl Next Door is, by all means, highly recommended. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2005