High school sucked. I’m rarely shy about that opinion, and The Girl Next Door gives a pretty good visual interpretation of why high school is a rough time for many. Moronic athletes, feeling left out, and never, ever, winning over the pretty girl.
The film is surprisingly good, perhaps because it knows when and when not to take itself seriously. Or maybe it is because the film’s hero, Matt (Hirsche) is very likable and has the audience rooting for him throughout. I can’t exactly pinpoint why the film works the way it does, but what’s important is that it is easily a notch above the recent plague of teen comedies.
Matt Kidman is the brainy kid at school who is constantly watching everyone else have fun. He and his friends Eli (Marquette) and Klitz (Dano…it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to figure out how that name will be used in the film) are outcasts at school, but Matt has a lot going for him. He has been accepted to Georgetown and is dreaming of becoming a future President. He is currently working on a speech that could land him a great scholarship. The topic of the speech: moral fiber.
Upon returning home one night, he notices someone moving into the house next door. This person happens to be Danielle (Cuthbert), a gorgeous girl who Matt immediately becomes infatuated with. That night she catches him watching her take her clothes off, and decides to confront him one on one.
Thus begins a weird friendship, but things are about to get more interesting. Eli, an avid porn watcher, sees Danielle in one of the films in his collection. He shows the tape to Matt, and he is crushed. What follows is an adventure of sorts as Matt, Eli, and Klitz deal with a sleazy porn producer (Olyphant), various school officials, and Las Vegas bouncers.
The Girl Next Door stays away from the standard gross-out gags (with the exception of a few) that we have all become so accustomed to. At its core is a heart, and this will take many by surprise. The ads have made it out to be a porn-filled romp, and that’s not really the case.
Another winning ingredient is Emile Hirsche, who has appeared in various smaller projects. He really does a solid job of carrying this film, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him soon. Elisha Cuthbert is nicely cast as the mysterious, yet sincere Danielle. She is not proud of her porn appearance, and Cuthbert does a nice job of bringing out her real character.
The Girl Next Door will undoubtedly take audiences by surprise with its heart and sincerity. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of laughs to be had. What sets the film apart from the competition is its willingness to confront its own subject matter in an honest way. It gives us geeks a little hope.
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Length: 110 Minutes
Rating: R for strong sexual content, language, and some drug/alcohol use.
Theatrical Release: April 9, 2004
Directed by: Luke Greenfield
Written by: Stuart Blumberg & David Wagner & Brent Goldberg.
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano