The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door


Reviewed by: David Haviland

The Girl Next Door is like Weird Science for the Noughties, a titillating fantasy aimed squarely at teenage boys. It is, I suppose, a mark of progress that in this film the female fantasy figure is a human being, with her own problems and desires, rather than a computer programme. It's not much of a recommendation, though, and The Girl Next Door isn't much of a film.

Emile Hirsch plays Matthew, the school square who dreams of becoming the next JFK. Matthew's life is dedicated to getting a scholarship to Georgetown University and hanging out with Eli (Chris Marquette), the porn freak, and Klitz (Paul Dano), the nerd. Everything's going to plan until Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door. She's the girl of his dreams, apart from one detail; she's a famous porn star. As their relationship develops and Matthew tries to rescue her, he gets dragged into a seedy, ruthless world.

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It's a fun premise and the writers come up with some very funny scenes, such as when Matthew has visions of Danielle having sex with his parents after finding out about her past. Earlier on, he berates Eli for, erm, enjoying porn, while they chat on the phone.

But the film's confused attitude towards pornography is one of the things that lets it down. The majority of the film deals with Matthew's attempts to help Danielle leave the business, as she's too good to waste her life in such a degrading profession. It's a fair point. Porn is a deeply unpleasant industry, but it seems hypocritical and self-defeating to preach this way in a film that's pretty close to soft porn itself.

It's a movie that takes itself too seriously in other respects as well. At various points, it shifts in tone, feeling more like a thriller than a light comedy. These scenes, such as when Matthew has visions of a graphic car crash, really jar, as they're completely inappropriate for the material and shot with enough flair to be genuinely shocking.

The Girl Next Door will probably find an audience, as its premise is the stuff of fantasy, and the film is funny and graphic enough to generate word-of-mouth amongst its target audience. Hirsch and Cuthbert give reasonable performances and Luke Greenfield is clearly a talented director, but the script is too confused to make this as satisfying as Weird Science.

Near the end, Matthew explains how his journey has led him to truly discover the meaning of moral fibre, namely finding the courage to do whatever it takes to get what you want. Surely, even for Americans, this is a bizarre definition of moral fibre?

Reviewed on: 21 Feb 2004
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A guy falls in love with his neighbour but there's a slight hitch - she's a famous porn star.
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Director: Luke Greenfield

Writer: Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wagner, Brent Goldberg

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant, James Remar, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano, Timothy Bottoms, Donna Bullock

Year: 2004

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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