Oh J Lo. How the mighty have fallen.
January is garbage movie month. It’s not the summertime where people are on vacation and have time to go to a movie. It isn’t Christmas time when families feel the need to get together and watch a movie in the spirit of togetherness, camaraderie, and all that nonsense.
Alas, January is the time when half the country is freezing their butts off and everyone is plugging away on New Year’s resolutions which will be tossed aside by March.
So naturally, I went into The Boy Next Door assuming I was walking into a pile of red hot smelly garbage. To give it a backhanded compliment, it was only hot and smelly garbage, with the “red” adjective being unnecessary. In other words, it was bad, but not as bad as I thought it would be, and not the worst movie I’ve seen…so I guess as January movies go, good job J Lo?
So, let’s get to the disturbing premise. J Lo is estranged from her husband, Garrett, played by John Corbett. As they quickly show you in a massive detail dump of a beginning scene at the start of the movie, he cheated on J Lo with his secretary, thus introducing J Lo to a new low in her career, that of playing a woman who could possibly be cheated on. (Listen, I still don’t buy it, if you have J Lo and you cheat on her, you’re just a greedy bastard, even if we are talking about middle-aged J Lo).
Twenty-year old Noah, played by Ryan Guzman, moves in next door, on the premise that he’s there to help an ailing Uncle, but as we learn later, Noah killed his parents, because, I don’t know, he’s nuts I guess. J Lo’s character, Claire (yes J Lo is old enough to play someone named Claire) helps the young lad cook a meal and in a moment of weakness, she succumbs to his advances.
The whole idea is creepy and weird, and the writers make sure to stress that Noah is 20 years old, I assume in an attempt to make it less creepy and weird. And while I’m not sure how old J Lo is, she has to be in her forties and the idea of her playing a character who gets with someone who probably wasn’t even born yet when she was a fly girl on In Living Color just seems like an odd choice for her acting to career to go in.
After all, I miss the J Lo who was a maid that won Matthew McConaughey’s heart in Maid in Manhattan or the J Lo who trained to kick her killer stalker husband’s ass in Enough. Meanwhile, this movie was basically Enough meets The Graduate.
So, needless to say, Claire tries to break things off with Noah, but as previously mentioned, he’s nuts, and he’s not having any of it. He stalks Claire, threatens her, harasses her. The stakes are high because Claire is a teacher and Noah is attending Claire’s high school. And while the writers, again, make it clear that Noah is 20, the situation would still cost Claire her job, standing in the community, any attempts to reconcile with her cheating husband who is trying to make amends for what he did, and so on.
Sigh. I like J Lo. And this isn’t the worst movie she’s made. That award goes to Gigli. Still, even if he is 20, the whole idea of her playing a teacher who has an affair with a student…its just disturbing and might be an indictment of Hollywood’s treatment of older actors.
After all, J Lo’s kept herself up well and doesn’t look much different from her Maid in Manhattan days, at least in my opinion, anyway. And while her acting skills will probably never earn her an academy award (she’s always been a better singer and dancer), surely Hollywood could find some better roles for her to play.
But alas, no. No matter how beautiful you are, or how long your career has been, if you’re over 40, Hollywood demands you play a stalked mother with marital problems.
As you know, the Bookshelf Battler is a lover of classic literature, and there was brief mention of the fact that Claire was a classic literature teacher. There are some very brief classic lit discussions (not too many, we wouldn’t want to provide any thought provoking discussions to a January movie).
On a bad blind date with a man who belittles Classic Literature, arguing that it is not a good subject to study for one who wants employment, Claire points out JK Rowling as an example of a Classic Lit Major who made it big. And true to form, I sat there with my popcorn, yelling in my mind, “And what about all the other Classic Lit Majors who end up in the slush pile, J Lo?!”
Sigh. I’m such a cliche. Don’t mind me. Keep majoring in Classic Lit people.
Oh, and then there’s a scene where Noah gives Claire “a first edition copy of Homer’s The Iliad.” I don’t have the heart to point out that a first-edition copy of The Iliad probably would have been printed on papyrus or a stone tablet.
So, in conclusion, it’s a movie that a) made me feel bad for J Lo b) was bad and c) wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and d) pretty much what you can expect from a January movie.
Come on, March! We need your better movies to distract us from our broken resolutions!