Movie Review: The Boy Next Door (2015)
by Alan F. Zundel
“The Boy Next Door” is billed as an erotic thriller, but I can think of more accurate labels. How about: cheesy, predictable, dumb, and deeply disturbing for its underlying message that women who have sex outside of marriage should be severely punished?
Produced by and starring Jennifer Lopez, it tells the story of Claire Peterson, a woman whose marriage is on the rocks because her husband cheated on her. In a moment of vulnerability Claire has sex with the sweet but hot 20 year old “boy” who moved in next door. She regrets it and tries to break things off, but he turns out to be an obsessive, murderous psychopath who tries to destroy her life.
Yes, the same plot as in dozens of forgettable movies you can catch any afternoon on some cable channel aimed at women. You are allowed to fanaticize about sex with some young stud, ladies, but stray over that line for real and unimaginably horrible things will happen.
Or should I say “un-imaginatively” horrible things?
The movie reportedly did well among Hispanic women. I suspect this is due not only to fans of Lopez, but to the persistence of traditional sexual taboos in their patriarchal culture. A man can cheat and that’s bad, but if a woman cheats that’s VERY bad.
So that’s the cheesy, predicable, and deeply disturbing side of it. What about dumb?
So many plots holes and examples of illogical behaviors, where do I start? How about this. During a school dance where Claire is a teacher/chaperone and Noah, the young stud, is a student, she discovers he has painted “I SLEPT WITH CLAIRE PETERSON” (only, ahem, in cruder language) in huge letters on the wall of the men’s restroom. He jumps her, they struggle and she gets away.
Okay, but what about Noah’s graffiti on the restroom wall? Did any of the guys at the dance use the restroom that night and see it, or did they somehow not notice? Did anyone see it after school starts back up? Or maybe Noah wrote it in disappearing ink?
Another one. Claire finds out Noah has been assigned to her class, but when she objects to the principal he says she emailed him to recommend Noah be put in the class. She smiles and lets it go, then at home asks her son if he went into her email account and sent a message to the principal. YOUR SON? Claire, why the hell would your son do that? IT WAS NOAH, THE CRAZY GUY NEXT DOOR!! Why didn’t you tell the principal THAT YOU NEVER SENT ANY EMAIL???
Another. Noah beats another kid senseless (yeah, Noah is 20 but is in high school—don’t ask), ramming the kid’s head into a metal locker repeatedly and fracturing his skull. So what happens to Noah? He’s summoned to the vice principal’s office for a talking-to. No police, no felony assault charges, no jail time. Because, after all, if he was sent to jail he couldn’t go on terrorizing Claire and what would the writer do then?
One more, if you will indulge me. Claire breaks into Noah’s house to delete the computer file of a video showing them having sex. Um, did it occur to anyone he could have copied the file to a flashdrive, or even a hundred flashdrives, and hidden them in various places? Or that the file would be stored in the cloud? This is 2015, after all.
But the biggest howler in the movie is early on when Noah is being sweet and gives Claire a gift: a “first edition” of Homer’s Illiad. It’s not in bad shape either, for a book that’s nearly 3,000 years old.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of such laughs to be had at the expense of the movie, which would have at least made it more tolerable to watch. The only other time I laughed is when Claire nervously drops a pie on the kitchen floor and then shows up in the dining room serving a piece of pie on a plate. I was hoping she’d give it to Noah, saying “I scraped something up for you in the kitchen!”
The screenwriter is Barbara Curry, but I also blame Lopez and director Rob Cohen for this mess. In fairness they do hit all the marks that you’d expect for Claire’s escalating endangerment, which is why a lot of people watch stuff like this, but, c’mon, couldn’t you do it better? I also blame Lopez and Cohen for the gratuitous violence at the end of the movie.
The actors do a fair job, given what they have to work with. Ryan Guzman, who plays Noah, is the only standout, showing more charisma than established star J-Lo. He at least seems to be having fun with the part, and puts some energy into it.
I’m sorry I wasted my time on this one, but it’s my duty as a film critic to watch stuff like this so that you don’t have to. If you watch it anyway, please don’t tell me. I’ll never get that hour and a half back.