Movie Review - The Boy Next Door

Ryan Guzman (left) and J.Lo in 'The Boy Next Door'
Jennifer Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, a literature teacher at a high school who is married and has a teenage son. She's currenly separated from her husband because he cheated on her. Meanwhile, her elderly neighbor has his 20-year-old nephew stay with him. His nephew is Noah Sanborn, played by Ryan Guzman. He's a guy who looks like he lives in a gym. He drives a big truck. He's handy at fixing things like garage doors. He's a mechanic, so also knows how to work on cars. Yet, he's also well-versed in classic literature. He knows poetry and can quote the Greek poet, Homer.

Claire is caught peeping at him from her bedroom window, which has a direct line of sight to his, so she stares at him as he's naked and changing clothes. He notices this and then invites her over, while his uncle is away. They then have sex. After that, she tries to go back to her husband, but Noah turns crazy and does all that he can to force Claire to be with him.

Written by Barbara Curry, the movie doesn't flesh out Noah as a character. He's simply, generic, crazy-in-love, obsessively-deranged boy, and the movie is rather cowardly when it comes to its portrayal of Claire and too much wants her to be a victim, not wanting her to do anything wrong, taboo or that crosses the line. It's weak in that regard, and not as thrilling as something like Fatal Attraction (1987). In fact, a recent film in this vein called Missionary does bravely what this movie won't do.

Noah becomes a student in Claire's classroom. Because of the sexual tension, the potential exists of this situation turning into a nightmarish version of Mary Kay Letourneau. Yet, the problem is that it's made clear that Noah is 20 years-old, so even when Claire has sex with him, she's not crossing a line, meaning she's not doing anything illegal or wrong. Noah doesn't become a student until after they have sex, so again she doesn't do anything unethical.

While it might be embarrassing, it's nothing truly of great concern. It takes manipulating and twisting of facts to be of any great concern. Noah threatens to manipulate and twist the facts, exposing the affair. When Claire acts scared by his threats, her reaction is incredulous because again the whole thing is of no great concern. Claire behaving like it is a great concern makes the movie a little disingenuous, and quite frankly cowardly.

Unlike Missionary, this film doesn't really give Noah a reason for his crazy, obsessive stalking. There is no religious devotion for example. He's simply a psychopath, which would have been fine, if he had any other attractive qualities other than the superficial. At least, in Fear (1996), Mark Wahlberg's character is a psychopath but he's somewhat charismatic. Guzman has no such charm, or at least this movie doesn't give him the opportunity to be such.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for violence, sexual content/nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 31 mins.


Popular Posts