Every year has its fair share of film festival hits, especially at Sundance. Last year, Beasts of the Southern Wild broke out and became an Oscar nominatee, and also was overall recognized as one of 2012’s best films. There have been other stories like this, with films like Little Miss Sunshine, Reservoir Dogs, Memento, Clerks, and Garden State not only getting awards at the festival itself, but then going on to having success either with major awards, in the box office, or earning a major cult following. Some movies, on the other hand, get lost into the shuffle of the film festivals, and while they may find success there, they can’t find an audience. The Tao of Steve is one of those films.
After wining the Special Jury Prize, it seemed that this 2000 Sundance crowd-pleaser would break out and become a hit. Sadly, the film went on to only gross a mere four million dollars at the box office, and has yet to find an audience on DVD, but I think it is deserving of one, as The Tao of Steve is a solid flick.
Dex is an overweight, underachieving man in his mid-30’s, but is able to strike a chord with the ladies with his zen-like system. Dex soon meets his match, Syd, a quirky flame from his past, as Dex discovers his true potential, and what love truly is.
The Tao of Steve feels tailor-made for its star Donal Logue, and he is great in the film. Logue is such a charming and likable actor, with natural comedic chops, that he fits Dex perfectly. Dex is a character who could easily be played as just an unlikable, mean-spited guy, but Logue finds that perfect medium, making him a likable and complex character, whose negative traits we root for him to overcome.
Matching up with him perfectly is Greer Goodman, who is charming and quirky as Syd. Syd is sort of like the typical love interest in a romantic comedy, but I think Goodman is able to surpass that standard. It is easy to see why Dex is able to fall for Syd, as she is intellectual and quick on her feet, just like him, and both Goodman and Logue have great chemistry, and make for a great onscreen pairing.
The script here is tastefully done. At this film’s roots, it is a simple R-rated sex comedy combined with the average romantic comedy. While this concoction of genres sounds rather disastrous, the writing team of Duncan North, Jenniphr Goodman, and Greer Goodman are able to make these ideas work. The Tao of Steve is far more mature, writing its characters as basic humans, and its jokes as jokes, not raunchy physical comedy. Issues such as Dex’s weight are handled seriously, rather then turning it into a series of tasteless jokes. The trio of writers are able to capture realism, along with creating solid humor, which is rare in a film like this.
A quick side note, the film has a great soundtrack. Featuring many 80’s-type songs, the music fits well with the too cool for school attitude of Dex, and I will most likely be listening to some of the film’s songs in the near future.
Most of this film is dangerously close to indie classic level, but it does derail itself at points, mainly its final act. The final ten minutes or so feels like it has to rush in as many plot points as possible, so the final ten minutes take what would be about thirty minutes into another movie, and jam them into this. Not only that, but most of these final ten minutes have rather generic content, with elements like the terrible liar reveal story arc. I wish these final ten minutes were as inspired as the rest of the film, as it would have really made the film fantastic.
One minor complaint, there is a character in the movie named Dave, who is literally one of the dumbest in movie history. It’s just so odd in a movie where every character feels so genuine to see this belligerent idiot say the most insanely idiotic things. Its just amazing to think how the writers thought this was a good character, but at least he is only in the movie for a few scenes.
The Tao of Steve is a charming, mature, and well-executed little indie that sadly has been forgotten among other films, but certainty deserves more attention.
Take a Drink: whenever that creature referred to as Dave pops up on screen
Take a Drink: when Dave has the same stupid smile on his face
Do a Shot: whenever Dave is about to speak; trust me, you don’t want to hear whatever it is that he is saying.