[box cover]

The Tao of Steve

One of the aspects of the current cinema one never fails to marvel at is the unquenchable thirst of so-called independent filmmakers for material that, mutatis mutandis, would be perfectly acceptable in a mainstream Hollywood movie. What should distinguish indie films is a progressiveness of ideas, narrative styles, and visual techniques, as well as truly alternative views of things, be those views radical or conservative. Instead, all too many so-called indie films merely are mainstream tales about relationships that look and feel and sound like light-minded and heavy-handed Hollywood fodder, except not as well photographed and with worse-looking actors. The Tao of Steve is an example of this trend. It's as mundane, as Hollywooden as they come, but cloaked in the misleading garb of "independent" cinema. Substitute Mel Gibson and Michelle Pfeiffer for some of the cast and tighten up the script with better motivation and funnier lines, and it's a star-vehicle perfectly acceptable to run-of-the-mill studio executives. Set in New Mexico, The Tao of Steve is the story of an overweight Casanova named Dex (Donal Logue) who has derived certain techniques for wooing unwilling women into bed from the seemingly contrary models of Zen and the films of Steve McQueen. Naturally, he meets his match in Syd (Greer Goodman), a woman who teaches him that his Zen approach to seduction isn't as important as having a "meaningful relationship" — i.e., one in which his individuality is squashed in deference to her overbearing whims. It's all very predictable stuff, with the occasional good laugh-out-loud line ("Am I suppose to remain celibate while I bask in the warm glow of your annihilating contempt?"), but it doesn't come across as the kind of trailblazing material that independent filmmakers should fight to bring to the screen; in fact, it plays more like one of Henry Jaglom's tedious, improvised relationship movies. Logue is adequate and a recognizable type as the heavyset redhead with a slacker's approach to life, but the entire project suffers from the earmarks of indie poverty — most of the scenes take place in the same locations, and the crew and cast of friends and mutual admirers indulge each other disastrously. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of The Tao of Steve offers an anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1). The image is fair, but the photography for this film (by Teodoro Maniaci) is mostly pedestrian, with the odd beautiful sunset to remind us that we are in the American southwest (and the source print has lots of scratches and nicks). Audio is in the original Dolby 2.0 Surround mix, which is fine, given that the movie is all talk. The additional commentary track almost gives all commentary tracks a bad name — a lot of people crowded into a sound booth, all talking at once and saying nothing (stars Logue and Goodman, screenwriter Duncan North, who we soon learn was writing about himself, and director Jenniphr Goodman). Three theatrical trailers (The Tao of Steve, The Patriot and Jerry Maguire, all with Logue), talent files on Logue and Jenniphr Goodman, and a weblink to "The Steve Test." Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm



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