According to The Tao of Steve, the type of man women should fastidiously avoid is someone like former philosophy student Dex (Donal Logue). Overweight, unambitious and generally lackadaisical, Dex is a most unlikely lothario. But he has a secret weapon, a philosophical construct dubbed the “tao of Steve” (so named for kings of cool like Steve McQueen who possess a secret magnetism) which can turn a shlub like Dex into the seducer of the entire female population of New Mexico.
With a long string of brief sexual encounters behind him, Dex can barely go anywhere in Santa Fe without running into a former conquest whose name he can’t quite remember. He’s also treading on thin ice by conducting a long-running affair with his friend’s wife.
In director Jenniphr Goodman’s eyes, Dex is a rakish charmer instead of an unrepentant creep, and Donal Logue almost pulls it off. He can talk a good game, and when Dex turns his full attention to a woman, he exudes a seemingly genuine warmth that could melt even the most cynical heart. Too bad that promised intimacy is a well-rehearsed lie.
When Dex encounters Syd (Greer Goodman), he automatically makes his play, but gets nowhere. Syd remembers Dex as an academic star, and there’s an old attraction there, but she’s hesitant about getting entangled. Their complex relationship forces this slacker Alfie to finally confront his tendency to use sex as a way to avoid love.
The Tao of Steve is a homegrown project: Goodman wrote the script along with her sister Greer and former roommate Duncan North (the real-life Dex), and their sunny home base of Santa Fe is an integral component of the story. So why does this film feel like a clever idea that never quite takes off? The trouble is Dex.
For someone so enamored of his own intellectual prowess, he puts very little thought into what he does, and Jenniphr Goodman and company adore Dex so much that they never ask him to account for his actions. All of which makes him a sensitive scoundrel without a soul.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. E-mail email@example.com.