20th Century Fox
Directed by Luke Greenfield
Written by Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wagner and Brent
Produced by Charles Gordon, Harry Gittes and Marc
Starring Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant,
James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano, Timothy
Bottoms, Donna Bullock, Jacob Young, Brian Kolodziej,
Brandon Iron, Amanda Swisten, Sung Hi Lee and Ulysses
One of the sweetest teen comedies in recent years
casts its leading lady as a porn star. You could
take this as a sign of the current content in teen
comedies, or just accept that “The Girl Next
Door” is a fun throwback to the spirited John
Hughes films of the 1980s.
Matthew (Emile Hirsch) is the kind of kid who didn’t
win the election for class president because he’s
popular, but because no one popular ran. He attends
a bland high school with bland pep rallies and obnoxious
students. His big project as president has been to
raise money to bring a foreign young genius to study
with better facilities in his school, but the other
kids only cheer for the effort because they think
that the video footage of the boy is funny.
Matthew fears ending high school on his current experience-void
life, but can’t muster up the nerve to skip
school like the popular kids. When he does decide
to leave, much to his motionless friend’s chagrin,
he has a wonderfully deranged vision.
This all changes when the beautiful and sexy Danielle
(Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door and soon turns
out to also be smart and funny.
At night, she spots him glancing at her through the
window while she disrobes, and retaliates by coming
over to his house. But she doesn’t tell his
parents what happened. Instead, she asks him to show
her around town, then reveals another surprise in
a challenge that defies standard flirting. The scene
in which she comes over to the house is cleverly
shot, so as to create the same anxiety Matthew feels
when Danielle sees him.
In the tradition of high school movie friends, Matthew
has two buddies on opposite sides of the uncool spectrum.
Eli (Chris Marquette) has an unhealthy obsession
with porn—an obsession that compels him to
watch it with his friend, the nerdy Klitz (Paul Dano).
Marquette delivers amusingly obscene lines about
his love for porn and dreams of sex. His character
has already decided that there could be no better
future on this earth than a job in the porn industry.
Eli’s porn expertise leads him to realize that
Danielle was a porn actress. He gives horrible advice
to Matthew, resulting in a breakup and reunion than
would normally muddle the end of a film. And the
scholarship presentation that Matthew keeps preparing
for doesn’t come at the end of the film, as
convention would dictate, but in the middle. This
results in some awkward pacing from director Luke
Greenfield, but it’s forgivable because where
most films would stop, this one keeps exploring.
Screenwriters Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wagner and
Brent Goldberg certainly resort to some stock tricks,
like the old unknowingly-taking-drugs bit. But more
often, they put in clever lines and sight gags, including
a hallucinatory scene with Danielle and Matthew’s
parents after he finds out that she’s a porn
star, and a trick Danielle and Matthew play to make
Eli briefly think he’s actually in porn.
A strong supporting cast also keeps the film lively.
Timothy Olyphant almost steals the whole film with
his supporting role as Danielle’s former porn
boss, Kelly. At once cool, sleazy, demanding and
flattering, he leaves the characters and audience
unsure of how good or bad a guy he is, creating a
comic tension that flows through the whole film.
This tension embodies “The Girl Next Door,” as
the characters finally leave their bland suburban
high school for a new world that’s exciting,
scary and funny, alternately and simultaneously.