Friday, April 4, 2014

The Tao of Steve


I arrived in Miami and was immediately whisked away to the lavish new ship, the Norwegian Sun, in a stretch limo which just had room for me, my costume changes, and the thirty-seven pieces of Louis Vuitton which contain the little necessaries for life on the road. I was a tad put out as the limo was black, rather than the lavender I had requested, but one must put up with these little inconveniences when traveling amongst the provincials. 

On arrival at the docks, there was some unpleasantness as the Royal Suite, which I had been promised in my contract, was occupied by some lesser known entertainer named Rosie O'Connell or something or other Irish and I had to make do with an inferior suite which did not come with its own private veranda with Jacuzzi. I was about to launch into an appropriate tantrum when the ship began to move under me and I had a slight case of mal de mer and felt it best to take immediately to my cabin. I did not realize that cruise ships actually bob up and down in an aquatic environment. They should have made that more clear before I accepted the gig. 

Anyway, I had remembered to bring my new laptop with the built in DVD player so I was not at a loss for activities while confined to my stateroom. Several new films had arrived from Netflix; amongst them was the recent independent film The Tao of Steve starring Donal Logue. I settled back into my deluxe queen bed, and between bouts of violent nausea, tempered only by doses of my new Special K cereal additive and time in bed with the doctor, managed to view the film. 

The Tao of Steve is the story of a lovable underachiever named Dex (Donal Logue) who, a decade prior to the time our story takes place, had been a campus lothario and brilliant student of philosophy at a small college in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Now in his early 30s, he's packed on the pounds, works part time at a day care, and beds a variety of women using a philosophical system he calls "The Tao of Steve". Steve refers to three uber-cool masculine archetypes, Steve McGarrett, Steve Austin and Steve McQueen. The Tao part comes from an adaptation of that ancient Chinese religious tradition - do not seek what you desire but rather refrain from seeking and it will come to you. 

Dex, by playing it cool, acting uninterested, but excellent in the eyes of the ladies, drifts from one meaningless sexual affair to another despite his less than manly physique. He seems to enjoy his life until he runs into Syd, an old conquest from college days, back in town for the ten year reunion and to do a set design for the Santa Fe opera. Dex finds himself falling in love with Syd and her tart wit and maturity are impervious to Dex's usual method of operating. It is on this slim hook that the film is built. 

Donal Logue is one of Hollywood's better young character actors and he imbues Dex with a biting, but gentle sense of humor and good spirits despite the Pagliacci pain underneath. It's a nice performance, with some great line deliveries. It's also nice to see a romantic lead without an Adonis figure having a successful, albeit shallow, sexual life. The rest of the cast, however, seems to have been recruited from the friends and neighbors of the Goodman family of Santa Fe (sister Jenniphr is writer/director and sister Greer is writer/star, appearing as the inamorata Syd). Greer Goodman, with her mordant delivery and her unconventional good looks, impresses, but most of the rest of the large supporting cast are dishwater dull and undistinguishable. I assume they're mainly playing themselves and many of the scenes that involve supporting players seem like outtakes from someone's home videos. 

The screenplay (by the sisters Goodman and Duncan North, on whom the character Dex is loosely based) is full of the repartee one finds in graduate seminars. There are lots of fairly intelligent lines and references that will go over the heads of the vast majority of a film audience, but the end effect is brittle comedy, without enough of a heart. I'm not sure who financed the film or why as it's a bit like sitting around a college pub listening to grad student conversations. Only the personable leads make it worthwhile. 

The DVD contains the film with good picture and sound transfer. There is an optional audio commentary track with the Goodman sisters, Mr. Logue and Mr. North discussing the film. Most of the discussion seems centered on whose kitchen they shot which sequence in or squeals of delight when a favored pet cat wanders into shot. 

The Tao of Steve is a pleasant enough diversion, but there are much better uses of 90 minutes (180 if you watch it with and without the commentary). The Santa Fe landscape is, however, lovely. 

Tattooed hero. Priest in bathroom. Foam core set design. Gratuitous butter clarifying. Dramatic hike. Mountainside pool party. Gratuitous opera snooze. Accidental hair glitter. 

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