Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: The Boy Next Door

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: The Boy Next Door

Article excerpt

The Boy Next Door

15, Nationwide


15, Key Cities

Stateside critics, who panned Jennifer Lopez's new film The Boy Next Door on its US release last month, may be unaware of the ability of the British to enjoy a film so bad it's almost good. I suspect many Brits will shamefacedly delight in this so-called erotic thriller's camp silliness, its truly dreadful script and its almost mockingly implausible premise. This is a film where a bespectacled Jenny from the Block plays a classics teacher (yes) who receives a pretty copy of Homer's 3,000-year-old poem 'The Iliad' as a gift and quite sincerely exclaims, 'Wow, is this a first edition?'

How can you follow a gem like that? The answer is with many more inadvertent jokes of a similar ilk, made all the funnier for their intended gravitas. This is a kind of gender-reversal Fatal Attraction , where J-Lo plays Claire, a sad, middle-aged woman on the brink of divorce who has a one-night stand with a hot young thing Noah (Ryan Guzman), only to discover that he is a complete psychopath intent on making her his missus and destroying her life until she relents. You can almost see the pre-production meetings with eager execs (one of whom was, in fact, Lopez herself) fawning all over what they no doubt considered a very clever, modern twist. 'So subversive,' they no doubt gushed. 'Because it's the man who's jealous, see?'

And in some ways it is subversive, vaguely riffing off the Fifty Shades of Grey idea that erotica can be directed at women too. Take, for example, its bizarre but definitely different sex scene. There is actual foreplay (for her) and torso shots (of him) with the face completely cut out. Well, of course. Who cares about a face, not to mention personality, when the abs look like that? That's feminism (isn't it?).

The day after their night of passion, Noah turns up at Claire's place to ruin dinner with her ex-husband and son. He smiles menacingly. 'Oh yeah, I just love your mother's cookies.' Whatever that means. Cue more uproarious laughter from the audience.

About halfway through, those who have tittered throughout the fast-paced awfulness of the opening scenes may be tempted to leave. Once you realise that Claire will never go to the police, as any sensible person would do, no matter how homicidal her Romeo becomes, the plot begins to drag. But honestly, it's worth sticking around, just to see one of the most revolting impromptu weapon choices ever made on screen. …

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