Film Reviews

Romance with a Beer Gut

The Tao of Duncan

The Tao that can be followed is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

This is the koan that begins the Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu.

This is the fat guy who scores all the hot chicks?


This is the koan that begins an encounter with The Tao of Steve screenwriter Duncan North.

North, however, is more than just the movie's screenwriter; he's its inspiration. Proof is found in the closing credits of The Tao of Steve, this year's Sundance fave. It's found, in fact, in the following epigram:

"Based on a story by Duncan North. Based on an idea by Duncan North. Based on Duncan North."

The story The Tao of Steve tells is the tale of a generously proportioned guy who has an irresistible way with women. And the half-baked--or, considering his fondness for marijuana, the completely baked--philosophy that guides him in his romantic conquests is known as The Tao of Steve. It's part Zen, part Heidegger, but mostly it's the epitome of coolness that is silver-screen legend Steve McQueen. The Tao of Steve is thus:

Rule 1: Eliminate your desires. If you're out with a girl and you are thinking about getting laid, you're finished. A woman can smell an agenda.

Rule 2: You have to do something excellent in her presence, therefore proving your sexual worthiness.

Rule 3: After you've eliminated your desire, and after you've proven your excellence, you must retreat. In the words of the philosopher, we pursue that which retreats from us.

So go ahead and scoff when you think of these words and then imagine the portly image of North pulling the Great Escape. As Lao-Tzu teaches, "When the foolish man hears of the Tao, he laughs." But when you talk to him at length, and you see his air of wry and, yes, wise tranquility, the paradox starts to make more sense, as if you were getting a personal audience with the Dalai Lama, and the Dalai Lama liked to smoke out and bed hotties.

Donal Logue, who plays Dex, the film's fictional version of Duncan North, and who won the Special Jury Award for dramatic acting at Sundance, says, "If it wasn't for the film calling attention to the weight, I don't think anyone would ever think of Duncan in terms of, 'Yeah, I guess for a heavy guy he's all right.' But I know when I first met him--and you only know about him from the movie stuff--I expected to meet someone who propped themselves up."

As if cued, Logue does just that, arching himself up, raising an eyebrow a few inches, and lowering his voice a few octaves. "Hi, I pull chicks."

Logue drops out of character, turns to the man being discussed, and says, "But he's not like that. Once you know him, you just see a good-looking guy who's very smart and very funny. Of course chicks dig him. It makes complete sense. Oh, yeah, and Duncan really can pull chicks."

North has been quiet through this entire character evaluation, perhaps lost in the words of Lao-Tzu: The sage knows himself but he makes no show; he has self-respect but he is not arrogant. As Logue finishes, North stoically nods. Then, unable to fight off a smile any longer, he states, "Excellent."

But, excellent or not, a question remains: Isn't being publicly presented as the fat guy who scores hot chicks bothersome?

"Well," North says, "The problem is that I think I have the opposite of the more common anorexia. I look in the mirror and see a skinny person. So all of this fat talk is really starting to mess with my delusional denial thing. So I guess I should say, 'Gee, thanks.'"

The Tao of Bionics

Steve McQueen is a Steve. Steve McGarrett is a Steve. Steve Austin is a Steve. But Steve isn't just a name. It's a state of mind. It's a way of living. James Bond is a Steve. Spider-Man is a Steve.

These are the teachings of Dex, as played by Donal Logue, who is based on Duncan North.

Steve Austin, as in the Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin, is a man to identify with when trying to score with the ladies? It's true, says North, who gives a long explanation involving reluctant heroism and bionics.

When his audience doesn't seem moved, he gasps, "Hey, what do you want from me? When you're 16, you're not a very critical, rigorous thinker."

Yes, as experts tell us, the formative years can have a huge impact on our adult lives.

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Scott Kelton Jones