High school senior Matthew (Emile Hirsch) is straight A student with an eye on an Ivy League college and an eventual political career. However, his scholastic focus is distracted with the arrival of his new next-door neighbor, the beautiful Danielle. As reserved as Matthew is, Danielle is wild and as she tries to show him how to loosen up and enjoy life, Matthew finds himself falling in love. Matthew’s friends find Danielle vaguely familiar and ultimately recognize her as the star of several adult films. When confronted by Matthew, Danielle explains that she’s looking to leave the business and try to lead a normal life. Complicating things is the arrival of Danielle’s producer and former boyfriend Kelly (Timothy Olyphant) who is not happy with star actress’ desire to retire.
Much like Cuthbert’s character in the movie, The Girl Next Door advertises itself as one thing while really being something else. Anyone who only saw the commercials for this film would be justifiably mistaken if they thought it was just another raunchy teen comedy, as that’s how the studio seems to be pushing it. However, the movie wants to deal with weightier issues than just the wacky hijinks of being a teenager falling in love with your beautiful porn star neighbor. The Girl Next Door has aspirations of being an updating of the Tom Cruise classic Risky Business (1983) right down to Matthew’s two friends bearing a resemblance to Cruise’s two friends played by Bronson Pinchot and Curtis Armstrong.
An important part of the story is Matthew’s coming to grip with Danielle’s sexual past. Unfortunately, this is dealt with rather ham-fistedly here. The filmmakers seem to be trying for a riff of Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy (1999) but fail. But what’s truly disturbing are the things that are left unsaid in the film. Danielle appears to be no more than 20 years old. It is highly doubtful that her career would have been meteoric enough for her to have only been in the industry for barely the two years that it would have been legal for her to do so. It’s a situation that uncomfortably recalls Traci Lords without even factoring in Danielle’s much older ex-boyfriend.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to show porn actors as human beings. The 1999 film Boogie Nights did it exceedingly well and Howard Stern has been doing so on his radio show for years now. However, the movie disingenuously avoids some of the seamier aspects of its premise, which ultimately makes for uncomfortable viewing.