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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 (2000) ***1/2 Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, Kimo Wills, Ayelet Kanelson, David Aaron Baker, Nina Jaroslaw, John Hines, Selby Craig, Craig D. Lafayette. (Dir: Jennipher Goodman)
Donal Logue. The name may not ring any bells but you've seen him before in countless tv shows (including `The X-Files' as an arrogant fellow agent of Scully's and Mulder's) and films (one of Tom Cruise's fellow agents in `Jerry Maguire' and in this summer's blockbuster `The Patriot' as a racist who sees the error of his ways on the battlefield), but his biggest claim to fame seems to be as the greasy, bespectacled chatterbox philosophizing taxi hack, Jimmy The Cabdriver, in a series of promos for MTV in the '90s. Well all that's about to change in this> starmaking role in a devilishly funny and accurate look at the relationship war between men and women.
Logue, who pulls a De Niro by gaining nearly a hundred pounds, stars as Dex, a self-deprecating part-time kindergarten teacher who attends his ten year college reunion in the dusty oasis of Santa Fe, New Mexico where he is told by stunned classmates at his jarringly gone-to-pot visage that he was like Elvis. `Yeah, well now I'm Fat Elvis,' he says with a hip shake and a smirk. It is here the journey begins into Dex's eventual chipping away at the wall of sardonic intelligence he's built since attending the university. Dex has a certain acquired charm that he attributes to his own quasi-philosophy, the film's title, referring to the ultimate in guy coolness as being a Steve (as in McGarrett - the Jack Lord character of `Hawaii Five-O', Austin, `The Six Million Dollar Man' and McQueen, the coolest actor of all time, or any suave icon down the pike: James Bond, James Dean, et al.) - and the opposite being Stu - and the certain guidelines in wooing the opposite sex wrapping up with his ultimate kwon, `We persue that which retreats from us.'
At the reunion he bumps into Syd (Goodman, the stunningly attractive sister of the filmmaker), a fellow alumni who turns out to be one of Dex's apparent number of sexual conquests in which he later learns he cannot recall her at all. She is equally self-effacing, smart and opinionated and naturally proves to be the ultimate love of the loveless (`I love my dog') Dex. Here the plot sets into motion the inevitable formula of two people so right for each other yet both guarded, Syd for her share of heartbreaks and Dex for his chronic lying and seductive charisma like some sort of catnip for women including the wife of one of his pals, who he's engaged in a hot affair.Logue makes Dex sympathetic, funny, pathetic, infuriating, likable and ultimately an original character the likes haven't been seen since John Cusack's hey dey in the Eighties and the characters of the 90's indie comedy, `Kicking and Screaming' about arrested development and lifelong search for the perfect love. Dex is an enigma and the joke is that Dex realizes how unsavory he has become which also is the underlying angst he knows all to well: someone with so much potential only wasted by his own hand.
Goodman and her sister both excel in portraying women who are smarter than men think and provide the true anchor in a freely funny comedy that also examines one's own frailites and insecurites on a truly appealing level. Co-written by the sisters and Duncan North, the real-life model of Dex, the dialogue rings true in a brilliant string of set ups for Dex to pontificate before he deflates himself in recourse.
One of the best films (and comedies) of this year (or any). And remember that name: Donal Logue.
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