The Tao of Steve

Rarely does a movie come along that uses the names Lao-tzu, Heidegger and Kierkegaard. Rarer still is the movie that uses those names with understanding. The Tao of Steve, the charming directorial debut of Jenniphr Goodman, is such a movie. The title refers to a philosophy of dating espoused by Dex (Donal Logue, Steal This Movie, The Patriot). Steve is the ultimate in cool. Steve McQueen. Steve McGarrett. Steve is not necessarily a person, but a state of mind. The underlying philosophy goes along the lines of "we pursue that which retreats from us." Dex, self-proclaimed as fat, applies it to women by turning the tables and having them chase him. In college, he was the BMOC. Ten years later, he is a corpulent slacker kindergarten teacher who admits he gets laid more that he should. Lacking all else, Dex must use his intelligence and woo women with his words (at one point he calls himself a "forensic anthropologist").

The element that separates The Tao of Steve from other romantic comedies is the intelligence level of the characters. These people think and have the ability to articulate their thoughts coherently. The sparkling dialogue by Goodman, sister Greer Goodman, and Duncan North (who inspired the movie) between Dex and Syd (Greer Goodman) is full of thoughtful complex ideas. Instead of aiming low, the Goodmans and North force viewers themselves to think in order to fully appreciate the words flying out of the speakers. This is a good thing, since dialogue drives the movie forward. It is a welcome change, especially in this genre.

Syd was a classmate of Dex's in college. They meet at their ten-year reunion and he is trying to apply the Tao of Steve on her. The difference this time is that she is smart and recognizes him for what he is and what he is trying to do, so his attempts are not fruitful. He is trying to win her over, but she can see right through him. The fact that Syd will not fall for Dex throws him into confusion. At the same time, he is teaching the Tao of Steve to Dave (Kimo Wills, I Love Trouble), one of his friends with a considerable lack of luck in the dating scene. Syd believes that Dex is having his way with as many women as possible because he is afraid of actual love. He is afraid of rejection so he rejects.

The Tao of Steve works because it is not a big studio production. With the exception of Logue, most of the actors are either new or have little exposure. This gives a fresh feeling to the movie. It does not feel like the people on screen are actors, it feels like they are normal people (with Logue being about one and a half normal people). The film takes place in Santa Fe, adding to the laid back, slacker atmosphere Dex follows. Logue's performance is great. What he does is pretty slimy, but he does it with so much charm and warmth that no one cares. Greer Goodman, Willis, and the rest of the cast are equally amiable. And hey, any movie that uses the word 'solecistic' and has a Hawaiian version of the theme to Hawaii Five-O deserves to be seen.

Mongoose Rates It: Really Good.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated R for language and some drug use.

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