Volume 94, Issue 20
Wednesday, October 4, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
A charmless flick about a chunky guy with charm
Photo by Ter Thomson Randall
HEY, HEY BABY - YOUR ICE CREAM LOOKS PRETTY GOOD TO ME! Donal Logue takes a good look at Greer Goodman's ice cream in the new movie, Tao of Steve
Tao of Steve
Starring: Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, Kimo Wills
Directed By: Jenniphr Goodman
By John Plantus
Steve is not just a name, it's a state of mind.
Dex (Donal Logue) is an overweight slacker with the unlikely ability to seduce any woman, simply by following the philosophical rules of the "Tao of Steve." Steve is the prototypical, cool American male (think Steve McQueen), whose nonchalant charm makes him sexually irresistible.
The film opens with Dex putting his theory into practice as he sweet-talks an undergraduate at his college reunion. The fact that this one-time campus stud has become a pot-smoking fat man, with a meagre income and no viable future, does nothing to obstruct his path towards "spiritual enlightenment." The party is attended by several of Dex's past and present lovers, including Syd (Greer Goodman), a long forgotten dorm room conquest.
The two are reunited by a mutual friend who proposes a carpool arrangement as a solution to their transportation problems (each owns a motorcycle in need of maintenance). On their daily ride to work, Dex puts Steve's principles into action once again, this time in pursuit of Syd. Experience has made Syd wise to his intentions, but Dex refuses to lose his cool. He persists with a confidence not usually associated with a man of his girth.
What prevents Dex from becoming an endearing character to audiences is that he is never presented as the smooth Zen master that he is supposed to be. The film's narrative arch should be one in which the viewer gradually realizes that Logue's character is misguided, but instead the depiction of Dex is just a bit too smarmy right from the beginning. At any given moment, he comes off as more of a liar than a lovable rogue.
For this reason, the Tao of Steve fails to capture the panache of a film like Swingers, which offers audiences true insight into the recesses of male sexuality. Because the character of Dex is not allowed to develop naturally, he presents a less convincing example of "guy" mentality than any protagonist in Swingers.
Where Swingers might be considered testosterone's answer to the chick flick, the Tao of Steve plays by the golden rule of the genre, by presenting a protagonist whose unruly behaviour must be recognized, controlled and transformed. The depiction of a male in this role subverts gender stereotypes, yet missing from this movie is a certain edge that could energize the subject matter.
The film is no more innovative in style. Director Jenniphr Goodman constructs her movie like a film school assignment; she meticulously attempts to master the basic elements of framing, camera work and editing as if each were to be graded, then tosses in a couple of swish pans for bonus marks. As an independent film, the Tao of Steve lacks the creative experimentation and personal style that moviegoers find so refreshing.
Still, the Tao of Steve is not without its charms. It brings an intelligent premise to the often-bland nature of the romantic comedy. The witty dialogue, though sometimes laboured, cleverly applies both Eastern and Western philosophies to the interpretation of pop culture, retro television and modern dating.
Furthermore, the genuineness of a largely unknown cast of actors is far preferable to the idea of Tom Hanks in a fat-suit and Meg Ryan on a motorcycle. If the Tao of Steve is like a student film, it deserves an "A" for effort. Although the ideas may not be articulated perfectly, they are nonetheless there.
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