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
The Tao of Steve: Casanova. Lothario. Stud. Whatever the moniker, everyone knows the type: a guy with stunning looks, a killer smile, lines that don't sound like come-ons, a silky smooth demeanor, an athletic build, whose only problem is deciding which women's numbers to cull from his rolodex. Why women gravitate towards these men is no big mystery. Why they are drawn to the Dexes of the world is.
Dex doesn't even cut it as "the average guy": an overweight, unkempt slacker, he teaches kindergarten, thinks pot is the breakfast of champions, spouts Taoist philosophy and sleeps around enough to be a mattress tester. His life creed is based upon the Steves: Austin, McGarret, McQueen men who epitomized cool, weren't afraid to get roughed up, never pursued women and for whom things always worked out. His entire belief system is thrown into disarray when he meets Syd, a bright, headstrong opera set designer, with a flair with life and a sixth sense for B.S.. Suddenly Dex finds himself in the role of pursuer.
Good "relationship movies" are rare. Rarer still is finding one that approaches the subject from a male's perspective that isn't steeped in machismo and reeking of testosterone. Almost unheard of is to find the selfsame movie with a hilarious comedic tilt. Unlike "High Fidelity", the recent pre-midlife crisis movie which only skimmed the surface of relationships (but was a brilliant movie nonetheless), or "Autumn in New York" the shameless Rogue-sees-the-light-tear-jerker, "The Tao of Steve" is the thinking man's "About Last Night" - the intangible mixed with the right amount of brashness.
"Tao's" success is twofold: it boasts a tight, witty script - how many romantic comedies can you think of that are peppered with quotations from Lao Tzu? - and true to life characters. The "hero" is largely biographical, based on a friend of the director's who contributed heavily to the script. The Dexes of the world refuse to ascribe to the accepted maxim of relationships - men chase women get accepted/rejected, repeat if necessary. By adopting a calculated aloofness (not to be confused with jerks - we'll ignore the whole "Bad Boy Syndrome" discussion) they engender mystery and curiosity. Although it sounds ridiculous it actually works - I know two guys who could have been the model for Dex (I don't think there would be a strong reverse correlation however, as men generally don't understand signals- we're a bit thick that way ). Psychology and writing aside, the actors definitely bring the story to life.
Ottawa born Donal Logue, pulled a DeNiro, gaining 45-pounds for the role of Dex - now that's dedication to the craft. Having seen Logue previously only in bit parts - he has over thirty to his credit - I didn't think he could handle a lead. He quickly dismisses any doubts with his impeccable timing, both dramatic and comedic, which garnered him the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Logue creates a likable cad whose deviousness we both admire and despise, making his epiphany that much more enjoyable. Greer Goodman (in her first screen role) is an admirable foil as Syd, the woman who cuts through Dex's smokescreen and smashes his carefully cloistered world.
If you've grown tired of all that Hollywood has to offer, or more appropriately, what it fails to deliver, this may be the movie for you.
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