Female-centric films don’t always make the best argument for female-centric films. The Boy Next Door, an erotic thriller produced by and starring Jennifer Lopez is such a misguided effort, one fails to see how having more movies like this would advance the feminist cause or shed a light on the psyche of the fairer sex.
The marriage of high school teacher Claire (played by Lopez) is in a tricky place as she’s not sure whether to forgive her cheating husband after a prolonged separation. Of course this is also when young hunk Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door to take care of an ailing grand-uncle. Following some snickers-inducing come-on lines and countless shots of them giving each other the eye, they spend a night together. But as early as the morning after, the unstable nature of the boy shows itself and it’s not long before threats are made and murders attempted.
The silly excuse of a screenplay is just that: very silly. At no point do you feel confronted with any description of mindset or dissection of motives. Besides getting its two hot leads into all kinds of hip-hugging, curves-accentuating wardrobe, it’s hard to identify the function of something this poorly recycled and laughably written. Guzman displays a remarkably limited acting range as he manages to fail scenes that don’t demand that much of him. Lopez is a compelling screen presence but has zero credibility playing demure. The camera’s almost comical fixation on her enviable figure also leaves the suspicious scent of a vanity project. Director Rob Cohen has apparently little idea of or interest in female sexuality and goes about things in blunt, generic ways reminiscent of a Cinemaxx midnight special. So it’s no surprise that, unlike the similarly-themed Unfaithful (2002), where sharp direction plus nuanced performances can turn a bus ride home sensually and emotionally volcanic, the height of tension is achieved in this movie when an incident involving hacked printers spewing out sex photos is treated with the ticking-clock gravitas of an imminent terrorist attack.
With plenty of glossed lips and oiled abs but non-existent pace or surprise, this utterly conventional affair lands like such a dud it doesn’t even score as guilty pleasure.
The Boy Next Door | Directed by Rob Cohen (USA 2015) with Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman. Starts March 19