Alan is a musician who leaves a busted-up band for New York, and a new musical voyage. He tries to stay focused and fends off all manner of distractions, including the attraction to his good friend's girlfriend.
In his early 30s, the beer-bellied Dex has things figured out. He's widely read in philosophy, he's studied Steve McQueen the prototypical cool American hero, and he's distilled Buddhism and Taoism into three laws that make him a hit with women: don't express desire, do something heroic in front of her, then retreat. A part-time job with young children, beer, guys, Frisbee golf, pool, poker, his dog Astro, and sex: what could be missing? Then, at his ten-year college reunion, Dex meets Syd, and the "Tao of Steve" may not be enough to get him what he wants. Plus, Syd remembers something important that Dex has forgotten. Can a cool smart guy, 50 pounds overweight, find his bliss? Written by
Dex, the leading male character, has told Syd that he's falling in love with her, and she asks why he doesn't stop seeing other women. He responds, "Why? So I can bask in the warmth of your annihilating contempt?" The story of this film meanders much like its good-for-nothing hero, Dex, as we follow him through a slacker routine that allows him to do virtually nothing but pick up women and play games with his male friends.
He believes that he has the key to life in the "Tao of Steve," which is essentially a guide to fooling women into having sex with a fat loser--himself. He exclaims, "Why does the American Slacker get so little respect?" The clever dialog and the sweetness of Dex's discovery that he actually loves Syd and doesn't really want to be a professional cad all his life makes the movie worth watching.
Also fun is the truth in the "Tao of Steve" with its three edicts: 1) suppress your desire--and your agenda of getting her into bed 2) be excellent in her presence and 3) retreat. It's true that going into a relationship with nothing else in mind but sleeping with a woman is a huge mistake, and Dex recognizes the wisdom of being cool rather than needy, but then he uses it the wrong way (or the right way, depending on your perspective). We watch him explain his philosophy, use it to manipulate women, and then have to violate it as he finally figures out that while the "Tao of Steve" may get him women, it won't get him the one woman he really wants.
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