Movie Review: 'The Boy Next Door' (2015)

In Jennifer Lopez’s latest starring vehicle, a gender reversal sparks a refreshing take on the erotic thriller. Lopez stars as Claire, a mom weighing whether to reconcile with her cheating husband (John Corbett) from whom she is separated. When 19-year-old Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door to help his ailing uncle, he strikes up a friendship with her son (Ian Nelson) and starts helping out with an assortment of household errands.

Smitten and vigorously pursued, Claire eventually succumbs to one night of steamy passion with her persuasive new neighbor. It’s a decision she will soon live to regret. Following their tryst, he refuses to take “no” for an answer when she gently lets him down, regarding his desire for a prolonged relationship. In his twisted quest to get her to reconsider, he wages a psychological reign of terror on her and her family. 

While some will be quick to call this a female version of “Fatal Attraction”, there are key variances that keep it from being a full blown retread. The central difference being the protagonist of “The Boy Next Door” is set up in a more sympathetic way.

Most of that empathy lies in the structuring behind Claire’s dalliance, as she begins the movie as a victim struggling in the aftermath of her husband’s infidelity. It was something missing in Michael Douglas’ strictly self-involved and lust fueled liaison with Glenn Close’s crazed mistress in the aforementioned 80’s hit. 

Also earning Claire a great deal of favor is the cordial way in which she treats her estranged husband, working to maintain a peaceful relationship with him for the sake of her son. She’s easy to root for and when she gives in to her sensuous desires for her younger neighbor, it’s clear that she’s gotten swept up in a vulnerable moment. Unlike some characters who say one thing, only to do another; Claire means it when she insists it’s a one-time lapse.

Shaking up plotline expectations is the way in which Noah evolves. He makes the transition from hero to villain in a succinct manner that does not overreach credulity. Further helping matters is that there is an actual reason given for his madness.

Rather than the catalyst of his deteriorating mental state being sloughed off on a jaded one-night stand, an excuse commonly given in the genre, it is assigned a much more tangible explanation. The movie’s biggest flaw is its elongated denouement and an ending that is too abrupt to offer closure. A confusing choice given its openness isn’t used to make way for a sequel.

For those who enjoy thrillers and miss the 90’s era of adult-centric guilty pleasures, “The Boy Next Door” offers a now rarely produced piece of entertainment. What it lacks in giant plot twists, it makes up for in tension and a swift pace that keeps a gripping handle on the ensuing drama. Despite its clichĂ© plot developments, it maintains an edge which can mainly be attributed to the performances of its leads.

Jennifer Lopez makes for a compelling heroine. While Ryan Guzman gives an impressive turn as Noah. Turning up the charm in the movie’s opening, only to ratchet up the creep factor later on. In this regard he imbues the role with some considerable layers. Add to that the welcomed casting of a disarming John Corbett as Claire’s remorseful husband and the proceedings are given a memorable touch.

To its credit, "The Boy Next Door" never takes itself too seriously, unabashed in its mischievous gleam. Just as director Rob Cohen did with his spin on the “Point Break” set-up of “The Fast and the Furious;” he infuses enough stylistic modifications to keep “The Boy Next Door” from being a complete copycat of similar fare. By doing so he has creates a guilty pleasure that is significantly pleasing and there’s no guilt in admitting it. Rating: 6.3/10

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