If you ever need proof of what a little shit I was as a teenager, look no further than the 2-star review of The Girl Next Door that I wrote for my high school newspaper when it hit theaters in April 2004. “Just about everything is unrealistic,” I complained, “except maybe how horny everybody is.”
I was 17, and like all 17-year-olds, I wanted to be above the inanity of this movie.
But the inanity is what makes this movie great.
The Girl Next Door ((Not to be confused with the grotesque Jack Ketchum movie or the movie about Stacy Valentine’s rise to adult star fame)) is about Matthew (Emile Hirsch), an awkward overachiever, his friends Eli (Chris Marquette) and Klitzy (Paul Dano), and the life lessons they learn and hijinks they pull when they meet his new neighbor, Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), who used to be — and kind of still is — a pornstar.
Billed and marketed as a teen sex comedy, I find this movie so lovable, quotable, and yes, at times even relatable, that it is one of my favorite movies of all time. And definitely one of my favorite comedies, since I tend to hate most comedies. (It helps that there aren’t any jokes about bodily functions.)
Things I love about this movie: the incredible soundtrack, ((Many of the best songs are not included on the official soundtrack)) how fucking hot Emile Hirsch is, and the way the movie seems like it’s about to end about three times before it actually does. All of this, and something else that’s hard to articulate. Something nostalgic.
Matthew’s best friends Eli and Klitzy are cornerstones of the movie, providing a plethora of zingers and more utterances of “dude” than Dude, Where’s My Car?. Klitzy (YES, THAT IS HIS NAME, HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE IT?) is subtle, letting his bowl haircut and mouth twitches do most of the emoting, ((Extreme sidenote: you should watch Prisoners to see Paul Dano today continuing to be a badass)) whereas Eli is perpetually watching porn from the ’90s and/or yelling “I JUST WANNA BANG HOT CHICKS.”
Now, it’s entirely implausible that a hottie like Emile Hirsch would be an unpopular wallflower, but I don’t care. I’ll take it. I like it. Because he is wonderful. Listen, I watched a movie in which he wore his dead mother’s coats and stroked a pet chicken. I’ll watch anything with Emile Hirsch in it.
Sadly, IMDB trivia went and ruined his naked body for me. Apparently he was underage at the time of filming The Girl Next Door and used a freaking body double for the naked bits. Whatever. I’ll just go back to masturbating to all of his gay kisses and this face he makes as he furtively jacks off under his desk…
Did I mention Elliott Smith’s “Angeles” is playing during this part? I dunno why but this just GETS TO ME. In the groin area.
Danielle, who I hilariously called “a heap of succulent trouble” in my high school review, is easily the weak link in this movie. She’s a caricature of a woman, the stereotypical ~hot bitch xoxox~ who drives a powder blue VW New Beetle and wears Britney Spears pants with ties on front and no back pockets. She also never fucking closes her mouth. Even 500 viewings later, I’m still annoyed by that.
Her personality quirks include sensually taking off her clothes in front of open windows and asking Matthew, “what’s the craziest thing you’ve done lately?”
His reply: “so much nuts stuff, it’s just off the hook, off the walls.”
Matthew is clueless about how to interact with women. Eli’s advice, of course, doesn’t help: “take her to a hotel room and bang her like a beast. What would JFK do? You know he’d tap that ass.” But even Eli, later given the opportunity to squeeze a pornstar’s boob, sheepishly declines. He’s all talk. A facade. Like teenagers always have.
For about 30 minutes, the movie follows the formula you’d expect: Manic Pixie Dream Girl shows nerdy guy how to REALLY LIVE! They skip shcool, trespass and skinny dip in a someone else’s pool, and make out at a high school party full of jocks — complete with slow motion red cup splooshing into the grass.
All of this comes to a halt when Eli discovers Danielle’s former profession. Of course, he’s all too happy to gleefully break the news to Matthew in the AV room at school. I want to be mad at Matthew for being judgmental (“you’re better than this” is a sentence that is indeed spoken), but he’s so damn earnest — and also, Danielle really doesn’t seem into doing porn anymore.
50% plaid pants, 50% cigars, 100% fucking psychotic, and yet you can’t deny you’d want to be this guy (played flawlessly by Timothy Olyphant). He literally storms into a classroom and silences the teacher by SNAPPING HIS FINGERS AT HIM. He swindles money by sweet-talking the banker about her latest trip to Cabo. He asks for a blowjob from Matthew then laughs and yells “DO I LOOK GAY TO YOU?!”
Kelly is a porn producer who prides himself on coming up with porn plots. “It’s like a gift,” he says. “It’s like I can’t control it.” He’s visiting from LA in an attempt to lure Danielle back into the industry and just generally fuck shit up. And fuck shit up he does.
The movie basically goes apeshit after this, and to continue to apply logic would be a bit of a mistake. We enter a strange world where kids take road trips to the AVN expo, 18-year-olds are somehow allowed into alcohol-serving strip clubs, and a scholarship speech given while high on ecstasy is met with a standing ovation. Obviously, this is where the movie gets really good, and where I can’t tell you much for fear of ruining the fun.
James Remar, AKA Harry from Dexter, even makes an appearance as a high-rolling, satin-robe-wearing porn exec who won an AVN Award for Chitty Chitty Gang Bang. (His attack parrot chirps “bang me. Cradle the balls.”)
The overall craziness is peppered with little moments of hilarity that kill me every time. An old sex ed video in which the sullen protagonist tells his friends he can’t hang out: “I have a baby now. Because of prom.” Matthew nervously unzipping and zipping his jacket. A bodybuilder named Mule. Kelly and Matthew casually walking by a statue of people fucking.
In classic movie style, the stakes are raised, everything spirals out of control, and all hope is lost. I can’t tell you, exactly, how hope is regained, but it happens during prom night and looks a little something like this:
When all’s said and done, we’re treated to a glorious final montage set to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” No bullshit cliff-hangers here; the movie wraps things up conclusively without seeming contrived. There are small, strange victories for each of the characters. Klitzy’s, especially, always makes me smile.
In my review of The Girl Next Door for my school paper, I complained wildly about the movie’s “impractical plot.” Yes, it stretches reality, sometimes too far. But in criticizing all the ways in which the movie doesn’t make sense, I ignored all the tiny truths. Like when Klitzy turns to Eli and solemnly asks, “dude, do you think I’m ugly?” Or when Danielle explains she didn’t reveal her pornstar past to Matthew “because I loved the way you looked at me.”
The Girl Next Door is a movie for people who didn’t fit in with these guys who spent their time “mackin’ all the honeys”:
It’s for anyone who wished they could make out with the girl of their dreams in front of jocks, or walk into prom with a gorgeous pornstar on their arm, or have sex in a limo while a sappy song plays.
It’s for people who spent more of their teenage years home alone masturbating than partying.
And that was definitely me.