September 21, 2000

Stale, From Head To Tao

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Be desireless. Be excellent. Be God. In Jenniphr Goodman’s comedy, The Tao of Steve, the enigma of dating is reduced to this simple formula: follow these three rules and you are guaranteed to get laid. So maybe that’s my problem …

The film’s central character is Dex (Donal Logue), an obese bachelor who passes his days working part-time, playing frisbee-golf with his friends, fixing motorcycles and taking bong hits. Most women would reject him based on this description alone. Yet, women are more than willing to break the bonds of matrimony and laws of common sense to sleep with him, while men are begging to learn his secret.

The film begins with a scene from Dex’s ten-year college reunion. Remembered as handsome and intelligent, Dex returns having gained about one hundred pounds and has seemingly lost all his ambition. Yet, Dex professes his happiness. He explains how he has applied all the established philosophy he learned in college to his own life and created what he calls “the Tao of Steve.” This philosophy is named after all the iconic movie and television stars named Steve (such as Steve McQueen) who embody all that is cool.

Dex proves that women are interested in men who resist them. He puts it simply: ” You get laid by trying not to get laid.” The Tao of Steve works infallibly with any woman Dex meets, until he encounters Syd (Greer Goodman), an opera set designer. She compares Dex to Don Giovanni,in that they both discard women after sleeping with them for fear of falling in love. Dex cannot conquer Syd, and like the women he manipulates, Dex is attracted to the one he can not have.

The Tao of Steve seems like a Swingers for the thirtysomething crowd. But while both films focus on the rituals of dating within a group of friends, The Tao of Steve is far less funny and less original. Dex’s incapability of having a meaningful relationship ten years after college is more pathetic than amusing. Unlike the “Steve’s” who he idolizes and emulates, Dex is not a dynamic or engaging lead character. And although it is refreshing to see a film cast without any famous faces, the actors fail to deliver charismatic performances.

The Tao of Steve is most disappointing because it fails to live up to its potential. The film’s premise is quirky, but the dialogue and plot are stale and thus prevent the characters from being developed. From all the philosophy tidbits included in the film, one would expect that it would have been more profound. Worst of all, the originality of having a fat, slacker as a male lead in a romantic comedy is undermined by a predictably sentimental ending. The Tao of Steve is almost as rudimentary as its three rule formula, and perhaps this simplicity is its most redeeming quality.

Archived article by Diana Lind