Based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door follows the unspeakable torture and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt...and the boys who witness and fail to report the crime.
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18-year-old Matthew Kidman is a straight 'A' over-achiever who feels that he has never really lived life to the full. That is, until he meets 'the girl next door'. Danielle moves in next door, and Matthew thinks he's found the girl of his dreams. All is going well, until Matthew's sex-mad friend Eli reveals that Danielle is actually a ex-porn star. Matthew doesn't know how to take the news or how to treat Danielle, and things go from bad to worse when Danielle's former producer Kelly appears to take her back. Written by
The Girl Next Door isn't a riotous, laugh-out-loud comedy, à la American Pie or Road Trip (don't get me wrong, I think they are fine movies of a different genre), nor should it be treated as such when being reviewed. It's much more mature, a sweet delight of a story that has you chuckling in amusement rather than rolling on the floor guffawing. For that, I would hardly even classify it in the generic 'comedy' genre. I must admit, I did go in thinking that I'd spend two hours of my life enjoying yet another teen comedy, with an overdone plot, jokes bordering on distasteful, and up to the brim with gratuitous nudity. However, I came out with so much more.
It's a classic tale of boy-meets-girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy lives happily ever after with girl. But what makes The Girl Next Door stand out from the rest is the superb cast. The casting director did a great job, placing Emile Hirsch opposite Elisha Cuthbert (both very talented young up-and-coming actors, I wish them well in luck, love and life). The pair's on-screen chemistry is undeniably electric. They portrayed Matthew and Danielle's relationship perfectly loving and tender, yet fragile. This boy has fallen hopelessly in love for the first time, with the girl of his dreams. He has no past experience to draw on, he's terrified and confused, and he doesn't know what to do! As director Luke Greenfield pointed out in his commentary (Unrated DVD is a must-have for the hardcore fans), Emile and Elisha were chosen for their ability to act without dialogue, simply with their eyes. The subtleties in each expression brings so much more to the characters when watched closely in detail every nervous bite of the lip, every slight mischievous arch in the eyebrow you can tell exactly what they're thinking. Now, I've seen my fair share of movies/TV shows, and I'd be confident in saying that I have not yet seen another actor/actress able to fill those roles as perfectly and effortlessly as Emile and Elisha did. They must've poured their hearts out into these characters, bringing them to life, their romance blossoming on-screen.
And how can we ignore the superb supporting cast? Timothy Olyphant and Chris Marquette's work on this movie was simply priceless. They provided the comedy and laughs, and it would be impossible to list all of their hilarious one-liners here. A lot of people claim that they made the movie, and though I disagree, I can sure see where they're coming from.
And the music, oh, the music. I came of no great surprise to me to learn that Luke Greenfield writes all his projects to music. It is this unique trait that embellishes the movie with such a vivid background. From Bowie & Queen's "Under Pressure" opening montage to The Who's "Baba O'Riley" closing credits, every single song is perfect for its scene, particularly David Gray's "This Year's Love", mine and many other's favourite song in the soundtrack. It kicks in at the exact right moment and manages to capture everything about this innocent, pure, high school romance. Also, Paul Haslinger (second to none at composing scores) wrote some of his best work for The Girl Next Door. Simply put (again, stealing lines from the director) Haslinger is deadly with a piano. Each score enhances and fills the moment with such tension and suspense, most notably "Peeping Matt", when Matthew watches this gorgeous creature undressing through his window for the first time. There is an element of voyeurism and the excitement of the danger of being caught, as he watches the female movement and form unravelling with fascination and awe. He simply can't keep his eyes off her. It's a scene that many of us can connect with.
This is indeed one of those movies that ought to be watched on a DVD, at night, alone, rather than on a huge screen in the cinema with others. You'll find yourself leaving the end with a bittersweet aftertaste will I find that special someone like Danielle? Do I need to be broken out of my shell? Is the juice worth the squeeze? Sure, it is an idealist fantasy, but it's also sweet, endearing and full of heart. It's how an old-school love story ought be done. Just suspend your belief for two hours, and watch the magic happen. Hell, just go with it.
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