When someone mentions the term, "cool," various things will come to the minds of various people. To native Minnesotans, that's a day when the temperature hovers at or below zero. To the class clown, it best describes the look the stern disciplinarian of a teacher gives him or her. Others will think of that fresh feeling inside their mouth after popping a breath mint, while others will think of the tunes by Kool and the Gang (while the rest of us will think they need better spelling skills).
For those of us growing up in the '70s, the epitome of cool was "The Fonz," a.k.a. Arthur Fonzarelli, the "Happy Days" character embodied by actor Henry Winkler. Of course, he was just a fictitious entity, but others in the entertainment industry - such as Steve McQueen and George Clooney -- have exuded their own coolness and made careers out of it.
Due to their state of being cool, such actors got - and the new ones continue to get - the best roles, the fancy houses and cars, and their choice of the most beautiful women in the world. That might not be right or politically correct, but that's the way it is and has always been, and many men of various ages envy and/or wish to emulate that sort of lifestyle.
The only problem is that most men don't have those movie star good looks, physiques or bank accounts that often help perpetuate such coolness. As such, what's an average guy - let's call him Stu - to do if he's not strikingly handsome, doesn't have what anyone would mistake for an Adonis-like build and has little or no chance of ever storming the Fortune 500 list of the world's most eligible and wealthy bachelors?
Well, if you're Dex from Santa Fe, you study, digest and then exude all that is considered cool and then turn on the "babe magnet" and watch the women being drawn in. Of course, Dex isn't a real person, but instead a fictitious character found in "The Tao of Steve," a smartly written and mostly enjoyable romantic comedy.
Based on her real-life exposure to such an unlikely lothario - Duncan North, a New Mexican kindergarten teacher with a unique, but successful philosophy of attracting women - first time feature film director Jenniphr Goodman has fashioned a film that - despite how it sounds - should appeal equally to both men and women alike.
Much of that's due to the way Goodman, her sister Greer Goodman (who appears in the film) and the real Duncan North have fashioned the script (which marks their singular and collective writing debut). Much like the lead character might have been portrayed, the film easily could have been an ugly, misogynistic look at relationships, something along the lines of what Neil LaBute delivered in his films, "Your Friends and Neighbors" and especially "In The Company of Men."
While such films certainly have a hypnotic abrasiveness to them (much like being inexorably drawn to an ugly car accident scene), they're not always fun to watch, particularly for the women in the audience. Thus, Goodman and company have smartly crafted a film and central protagonist that collectively end up exuding enough charm and wit to make them more than likable despite the way in which they appear at first.
It certainly doesn't hurt the Goodman lucked out in landing Donal Logue for the character of Dex. Best known for supporting roles in films such as "Runaway Bride," "Reindeer Games" and this summer's "The Patriot," Logue doesn't have the look of a leading and/or ladies man - and that's part of the film's wry humor - but the portly actor takes the role and runs with it, creating a funny, likable and memorable screen creation.
He certainly lucks out by himself by being able to play off Greer Goodman - the director's sister, co-screenwriter and cinematic debutante -- who delivers a great performance as his character's polar opposite counterpart and object of his various stages of attention and affection. Exuding a movie star quality, Goodman plays well off and with Logue, and the flirtatious chemistry between them is certainly infectious and entertaining.
Supporting performances from the likes of Kimo Wills ("I Love Trouble"), Ayelet Kaznelson (making her debut), David Aaron Baker ("Hi-Life") and Nina Jaroslaw (also making her debut) are all decent, but this is clearly Logue and Greer Goodman's show.
Although the film occasionally exudes and shows a rough, low-budget and independent film look and feel, at others - including shots of the Santa Fe vistas - it looks extremely accomplished, and those seemingly barren deserts have a beauty that flowers from within them, a symbolic point for the characters and their relationships within the film.
With writing that's always sharp, intelligent and often amusing, as well as two great performances from the leads, this is certainly a film worth checking out. Substituting a warm and fuzzy feeling for the stereotypical coolness often referred to within its story, this is a highly enjoyable and entertaining little film. We give "The Tao of Steve" a 7 out of 10.