Synopsis: Eighteen year old Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is a straight-laced overachiever who has never really lived life-until he falls for his hot new neighbor (Elisha Cuthbert). When Matthew discovers his perfect “girl next door” is a former porn star, his sheltered existence spins out of control. “It’s Risky Business meets American Pie” (Premiere Radio Networks) in this “witty, wickedly sexy (Access Hollywood) comedy about growing up fast and going all the way…with The Girl Next Door.
eyelights: the dynamic between Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert. its winning cast. its well-crafted script.
eyesores: its fake-outs.
“Hi, I’m all wet. Can I come in?”
On the cusp of graduating with honours, an upright teenager finds out that his next door neighbour is a porn star. Against all odds, they become friends and attract the attention of his schoolmates and school officials.
Sounds like a story designed as an excuse for some naughty shenanigans, right?
Surprisingly, ‘The Girl Next Door’ is a little bit more than that: it’s a sweet love story between someone getting his start in life and someone trying to restart hers. The fact that she’s a porn star is incidental.
In fact, the same story could pretty much have been told with her being a prostitute (i.e ‘Risky Business’) or anything else she’s ashamed of, really; the heart of the tale is the connection between Matthew and Danielle.
And that’s what made the film so endearing to me. I know it’s a fantasy. But it’s no crazier a fantasy than “average girl meets a rich handsome man who sees her for what she truly is”. Fantasies exist to make you dream.
To escape yourself, if only for a short while.
What I liked is the notion that this sweet young man, who is set to change the world due to his intelligence and due diligence, who is watching from the sidelines as his peers party with nary a care, gets what he deserves.
And I liked that she wants a lifestyle change so much that she seeks out his innocence and sweetness, that she loves the fact that he doesn’t see her as a porn star, as a sex object. He likes her for what she is inside.
Essentially, both long to be seen as more than what they appear and find that in each other.
Now this is nothing new, but the dynamic between Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert is so adorable that it’s impossible not to fall under their spell. They’re just so lovely that you have to root for them. You just wuv them.
It really is about them and their blossoming relationship. The rest of the cast is also quite good, including Chris Marquette and Paul Dano as Matthew’s best friends and a scene-stealing Timothy Oliphant as Danielle’s boss.
But Hirsch and Cuthbert are magic together.
I loved that the usual trappings of such tales were present, but rejigged so that the end result isn’t too clichéd. For instance, of course Matthew will find out that she was a porn star, fall out and get back together.
But it’s the way that this was delivered that made it great: after she leaves to return to Vegas for a porn convention, Matthew and his buddies go on a road trip to Vegas to win her back – which, of course, he does.
Most pictures would make this the culmination of the story, but this actually takes place early on, as part of the second act – it’s merely a bump in the road. And the three friends don’t spend much time in Vegas either.
The same goes for Matthew’s scholarship speech, which normally would be the big finale where he wins everyone over. Here it’s also a small part of the second act – and he messes it all up due to a number of circumstances.
Of course Matthew and Danielle get a happy ending, but it’s not in the way that you’d expect, which is nice. Sure, it’s contrived and fairly unlikely, but by then we’re so ready to cheer them on that almost anything goes.
We’re on board.
Again, it’s not to say that the movie’s entirely credible, but it’s not so unbelievable that you can’t immerse yourself in the fantasy. And it’s not so raunchy that it feels gimmicky either, as merely a vehicle for sex gags.
In fact, it’s positively tame compared to movies of its ilk.
Now it’s not to say that there aren’t a few silly naughty bits, like when Matthew is taken to a strip joint by Kelly, and ends up sharing a lapdance his dad’s friend. But it’s never taken to an extreme; it’s more situational.
Where I object slightly is in the way that the porn industry is marketed here, with Eli wearing a Vivid cap all the time, and the porn convention being shown as just a PG-rated event. Was the picture financed by porn producers?
I wouldn’t be surprised: get the kids while they’re young, huh?
But, beyond that, I thought that ‘The Girl Next Door’ was a surprisingly pleasant time. Anchored as it is by that spark between Matthew and Danielle, it’s a surprisingly potent romantic fantasy. I really wanted to believe.
And the kid in me does.
Date of viewing: January 21, 2017