Girl Next Door. Twentieth
Century Fox presents a film directed by Luke Greenfield.
Written by Stuart Blumberg, David Wagner and Brent Goldberg.
Running time: 110 minutes. Rated R (for strong sexual
content, language and some drug/alcohol use). Starring
Emile Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert, Nicholas Downs, Timothy
Olyphant, Chris Marquette, Paul Dano, James Remar, Jacob
Next Door, The
would be hard not to like The Girl Next Door, a charming
and good-natured (if raunchy) teen comedy. And it isn't hard
to discern exactly why it is so successful: it is the rare
teen movie that manages to be funny and sincere at the same
time. Even American Pie, good-natured though it is,
resorts to lowest-common-denominator style gross-out humor
when things get silly. But while The Girl Next Door
has its share of adult situations, there isn't an "eww"
moment to be found.
(Emile Hirsch) is a high school senior, the president of the
school government and an all-around nice guy. He's recently
been accepted to Georgetown University, and is a finalist
for a scholarship. But when he goes to fill out his yearbook
quote, "What I will never forget about high school is...",
he realizes he doesn't have a single great memory, because
he hasn't taken enough chances or done anything outrageous.
All this changes when Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in
next door. When Matthew get caught watching Danielle undress,
she embarasses him by forcing him to strip in the middle of
the street. They begin to spend time together, and soon they
are going out. Their relationship is handled with a deft touch
by director Luke Greenfield, and it is - surprisingly - one
of the most believable and touching screen relationships in
first kiss stands out strongest. Matthew and Danielle are
at a high school party. Matthew has been told to leave, and
Danielle is being talked up by a jock. We witness Matthew
as he decides what to do, as he silently contemplates his
decision, before strolling up to Danielle and just doing it.
Not only is this a great bit of physical acting on the part
of Emile Hirsch, but also one of the most magical screen kisses
in years. It is at once familiar and entirely new, just like
the whole first half of the film, none of which feels like
anything we've seen before.
is this refusal to conform to familiartity that makes much
of The Girl Next Door such a transcendent experience.
Even the things that come between the couple seem fresh. Matthew
is informed by his friend Eli (Chris Marquette) that Danielle
is an ex-porn star. When Matthew confronts Danielle with this
information, the resulting scene is truly affecting. The situation
only gets worse when Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), Danielle's
ex-boyfriend and producer, comes into the picture. He wants
to get Danielle back into the biz, and he isn't exactly appreciative
of Matthew's efforts to keep her out.
wish there were less contrivances and plot holes in the final
forty minutes of the film, but I'm more than willing to forgive
the film its excesses. Even the most outrageous twists are
acceptable when backed by the script's clever jokes and the
Hirsch, so good in 2002's The Emperor's Club, is one
of the best young actors working, and this film gives him
a chance to really shine. He makes Matthew into a truly likeable
individual. One scene in particular (a pitch-perfect sequence
in which Matthew goes to his scholarship dinner while high
on Ecstacy) displays Hirsch's sizeable comedic skills. The
drop-dead gorgeous Elisha Cuthbert (TV's 24) is unbelievably
charming. The supporting cast is equally strong. Timothy Olyphant
bites into his character's sudden mood changes with aplomb;
he can be at once kind and terrifying. Chris Marquette is
hilarious as Matthew's friend Eli.
let the pathetic television ads turn you off; The Girl
Next Door is one of the best movies in its genre, and
an early contender for my end-of-the-year top ten list. Sincere,
charming and funny, it is not to be missed.
2004 Matt Noller