Mainstream movies about porn almost always depict the x-rated industry as something cute. There are sleazy characters of course, but almost all of the women in porn are portrayed as free-spirited girls who just like to have sex and don’t mind doing so before a camera. While those women exist the harsh truth is that a lot of girls in the porn-industry have troubled childhoods. But Hollywood likes to romanticize porn stars, as does the audience. The Girl Next Door actually does both: it paints a romanticized picture of the porn industry, but also features a porn star trying to escape from the business. A business she’s not happy to be in.
Elisha Cuthbert is Danielle. A beautiful young woman who moves into a house next to that of high school senior Matthew (Emile Hirsch). Matthew is a straight-A student. He’s working hard to get into Georgetown University. But in doing so he has been missing out on the carefree elements of high school. His first encounter with Danielle is as she’s undressing in her bedroom with the curtains open. She catches him spying on her and briskly paces over to his house. She takes him out for a ride in her car and asks him “What’s the craziest thing you’ve done lately?”. A minute later he’s standing naked in the middle of the road.
Danielle is a manic pixie dream girl. At first at least. Her initial purpose is to help Matthew come out of his safe space and embrace life. For some strange reason this young and experienced woman is attracted to a virgin high school senior. Her existence in his life helps him climb the social ladder, results in his first kiss and makes him do things he otherwise would have never dared. Like taking a dive the swimming pool in the backyard of the principal. But then Danielle’s past catches up to her.
Matthew’s porn obsessed friend Eli unearths a porn movie starring Danielle. This turns Matthew’s world upside down as he is apparently dating a porn star. The wet dream of every teenage boy. Not knowing how to deal with this, Matthew makes a few dick moves resulting in a fight between him and Danielle. To make things worse Danielle’s sleazy manager Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) tries to pull her back into the industry.
The Girl Next Door is an R-rated teen comedy they don’t really seem to make anymore. The humor is never crude, but there is plenty of nudity in the movie. Surprisingly though, the nudity does not come from Cuthbert. Even though the trailers for this movie put a lot of focus on her skimpy outfits, we only see her character Danielle in a bra or from behind. A bit of body double side boob is all there is on display here.
When this movie was released Cuthbert was the next big thing on the block. She was coming hot of her stint as Kim Bauer in 24. The idea of her starring as a porn star in a movie immediately spoke to me of course. Her presence in this movie is electrifying and the camera obviously loves her. The fact that she doesn’t do any actual nude scenes is kind of a let down. That is what this movie is selling in the trailers. But still, it’s hard not to love her in this movie as gorgeous as she is.
The biggest mistake the movie makes is to take her out of it much of the second act. Once she and Matthew break up the focus shifts to Matthew and his friends trying to come up with a way to get her back. Danielle’s manager Kelly becomes the movie’s antagonist as has constant run-ins with Matthew. Some of them turning pretty violent. As the sleazy porn producer, Timothy Olyphant is a force of nature. He’s a character you just love to hate. But his violent antics also gives the movie a bit of a nasty streak.
Throughout the movie Danielle remains a mystery. They never explain her reasons for doing porn. Just that she wants to get out of the business. But as soon as she hits one small bump in the road with Matthew she goes to Vegas and back into porn. Somewhere hidden in here there is a drama about a porn star trying to get out of the life. But it’s trapped in a teen sex-romp.
In this romp there are a couple of scenes that work very well. The sight of Matthew getting a lap-dance together with one of his father’s friends is pure comedy gold. But The Girl Next Door never fully decides what it wants to be: A romance or a sex comedy.
Watching The Girl Next Door today gives me some nostalgic feelings. Teen sex comedies have silently died and made way for Young Adult movies about romances between humans and sparkling vampires. Elisha Cuthbert’s last movie part was in a Sean William Scott movie a couple of years ago. Remember him? This seems to be the case of a lot of Hollywood actresses who are cast in roles that emphasize on their beauty. When was the last time Megan Fox did anything noteworthy? They all seem to come and go.
The Girl Next Door is a decent movie, but it does not live up to its expectations. If it wasn’t for Elisha Cuthbert’s manic pixie dream girl character this movie would have been a dud. She brings a certain charm to this movie. Too bad she’s only in this movie as a leading character in the first half. At least we get to see James Remar in a thong.
Now that is something they wisely kept out of the marketing materials.