The Girl Next Door (15)

Directed by Luke Greenfield, Written by David Wagner and Brent Goldberg
On general release from 16th April 2004

Reviewed by Darren Guy

This film is funny and entertaining and may be appealing to lovers of American teen movies, but to me it was a film that struggled to work out its audience and its self.

Matthew (Emile Hirsch) is a high school achiever and do-gooder, hanging out with his geeky mates. Fed up with walking in straight lines he starts wishing he could be like the arsehole ‘bad guys’, who are hanging out with the chicks, taking risks and routing the teachers. Then one evening – wham - his life changes when he sees beautiful blonde Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moving into the house next door. That very evening whilst on the phone to his friend Klitz (Paul Dano) - who just happens to be getting-off on a porn movie - Matt sees Danielle undressing in her bedroom. She spots him and low and behold - like a typical teen movie fantasy - she comes round and invites Matthew to show her the local sights. Danielle has an immediate effect on Matt’s cosy, risk free life - forcing him not only to challenge his boundaries, but authority. Being seen around with Danielle increases his street cred massively, and he quickly falls for her, as does everyone else. Then ‘wham’ again, Matt finds out that Danielle has a secret life – she is a porn star.

This is where the viewer starts to wonder where the film is going. One minute it is an anti-porn film that may seriously challenge young peoples views of porn and the exploitation of women. The next minute it promotes the industry as exciting, dangerous and good fun to be involved in. Maybe it’s trying to say both things at the same time, though I doubt it. Having said that the film on a light level is entertaining, there is a good performance by Elisha Cuthbert, but the rest of the characters seem to be full of contradictions. This movie displays a serious lack of character analysis by the writers, while the narrative of the story breaks down continuously.