The Tao Of Steve (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/02/2001

2 out of 5 stars
Running time: 88 mins

Indie rom-com with a few nice ideas, but let down by an unsympathetic lead character.

The Tao of Steve was an unexpected hit at the Sundance film festival last year and went on to become a minor indie hit Stateside. It has an appealing premise (a physically unattractive guy is a mysterious hit with the lay-deez) and a cast of realistic-looking unknowns.

It also seems like a very personal project – it was co-written by first time director Jenniphr (no, that’s not a typo) Goodman, her sister Greer Goodman (also the female lead) and Duncan North, on whom the main character is based (a credit at the end reads "Based on an idea by Duncan North. Based on Duncan North").

However, although it has its moments and a few of the lines sparkle, your enjoyment of the film will very much come down to how you react to the lead character.

The basic story is simple. Dex (Donal Logue) is a fat, 32 year-old, under-achieving kindergarten teacher who still shares a flat with his ‘buddies’, smokes dope and hangs out in a bathrobe in his spare time. To the amazement of his friends, however, he appears to be blessed with the sort of sexual magnetism that would make Casanova blush, seemingly able to get any woman he wants.

This, it turns out, is down to his personal philosophy for getting laid: the Tao of Steve – basically a blend of Eastern philosophies and acting as cool as Steve McQueen. (The name Steve apparently epitomises the essence of "cool" for Dex: Steve McQueen, Steve ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ Austin, Steve ‘Hawaii 5-0’ McGarret and so on).

Mostly, Dex’s system seems to revolve around the ‘elimination of desire’ ("Women can smell an agenda", apparently), being ‘excellent’ in their presence, and ‘withdrawing’, on the assumption that women will chase you if you appear not to be chasing them.

However, when Dex falls for Syd (Greer Goodman), he finds himself violating his own codes when she appears impervious to his ‘charms’!

The main problem then, is Dex himself. Sure, he’s meant to be obnoxious and unattractive, particularly in the first half of the film when we’re meant to be as amazed as his friends at his success with women. But this is only true up to a point – at some point we are also supposed to see the ‘inner, loveable Dex’ but this never happens.

It also doesn’t help that the character comes across as a fat, ginger Tarantino-alike – he talks the same amount of crap and even has a similar speech pattern.

Similarly, the scenes with Dex ‘teaching’ his buddy Dave (James Wills) all about the Tao of Steve come across as forced and embarrassing, partly because Dex sounds smug and self-satisfied, and partly because Wills is such an appallingly bad actor that you’ll want to reach into the screen and give him a slap.

The inescapable conclusion is that Dave is meant to be mildly retarded, but if this is the case it is never mentioned in the script. To be fair, if you find yourself liking Dex, then the chances are you’ll like the movie a lot more. At any rate, the rest of the cast are fine and Greer Garson makes an appealingly non-glamourous female lead. The film also has more than a few decent one-liners, as well as a couple of good sight gags.

Approach with caution, then, and it’s definitely a bad movie to take a first date to!

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Content updated: 22/09/2018 11:39

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