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Other writings by Sasha Stone:
Hollow Man
The Boiler Room
The Perfect Storm

 

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THE TAO OF STEVE

by Sasha Stone

"Steve isn't just a name, it's a state of mind. It's a way of living. James Bond is a Steve. Spider Man is a Steve."

Are we women really so predictable that a simple three-step process could win over our bodies, minds and hearts? A portly Taoist-cum-playboy named Dex in Jenniphr Goodman's debut feature, The Tao of Steve, believes that, yes, all women will eventually be won over if you 1) lose your desire for them, 2) do something excellent around them, and 3) be gone.

"We pursue that which retreats from us," is the Heidegger quote Dex (Donal Logue) repeats over and over to his buddies when explaining the "Tao of Steve," a philosophy on how to successfully nail lots of women by taking on the persona of a "Steve" rather than a "Stu." To be a Steve is to be alluring to women despite any obvious flaws (a huge potbelly, for example), and to be a Stu is to let women reject you time and time again.

"Men and women both want to have sex," says Dex, "but women want to have sex 15 minutes after us, so if you hold out for 20, she'll be chasing you for five."

By most people's standards, Dex would be the last person in the world to get laid. He's overweight, lazy, employed part-time and appears to have no life whatsoever beyond Frisbee golf, poker, his bong and his dog. But paradoxically, Dex gets laid all the time. Moreover, he's looked upon as a religious leader by a group of men who long to be a Steve

Naturally, Dex meets his match - the one woman who can't be manipulated, the drum-playing Syd (Greer Goodman). Syd embodies all that Dex wants to be. She is "that which retreats," -- disarming him at every turn. Syd appears to be the only woman who notices how hurtful Dex's womanizing behavior can be. Thus begins Dex's deconstruction of his own carefully constructed persona. Who is he if he's not a Steve? Just another slacker? Or, god forbid, a Stu?

For a film that introduces a brand new leading man to the movie-going public, The Tao of Steve is surprisingly by-the-book plotwise, rarely deviating from the romantic comedy formula we all know so well. The biggest surprise of the film is that we're tricked into believing "The Tao of Steve" is something we should applaud. But the writers, Jenniphr Goodman, Greer Goodman and Duncan North (on whom Dex is directly based) clearly had a different message in mind, one that hinges on vulnerability, leaps of faith and, strangely enough, honesty.

Turns out Dex's ideas about love are about as hokey as his method of dieting: the "pizza diet," the "sleeping diet" and the "peanut butter-and-jelly" diet. They work, certainly, but how good are they for you?

The back-story of The Tao of Steve is almost as important as the film. NYU Film Grad, Jenniphr Goodman moves into a bedroom in the house of one Duncan North of Santa Fe. North, who once dated her sister, Greer (co-writer and star), so captivates Goodman with his intermingling of philosophy, pop culture and womanizing that she begins tape-recording everything he says. Those tapes would eventually turn into the screenplay "The Tao of Steve." Indeed, the film's website even has an "Ask Duncan" section where the love guru answers visitor's questions.

However, this film would be nowhere without its leading man, the coolly charming, understated dreamboat, Donal Logue, who won Best Actor at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Even with a fat pad the size of a Buick, Logue pulls off Dex with such a natural ease, you'd be hard pressed not to become one of his conquests or one of his followers. While he has many defining moments, a few stand out as among the finest of any performance to come out this year. One that should have its place firmly in our collective cinematic memory is the scene when Dex, depressed over his inability to win over Syd, sprays the equivalent of a sundae into his mouth while standing at the refrigerator with its door cranked open. A spoonful of ice cream, a dribble of chocolate sauce, a spray of whipped cream, and repeat. All while his begging dog looks on.

Goodman brings a refreshing antidote to the endless Tarantino hangover, one that celebrates things like smart women, the exchange of ideas and all things fun. Even the setting, in and around Santa Fe, is like nothing we've ever seen in movies. There is a post-Seinfeld conversational tone that leaves the impression that these people are not characters in a film but rather just some people you know, people who are flawed in appearance, and full of contradictions that don't have to be explained. This is a movie that's fun to hang out with.


CineScene, 2000

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