Ever since the end of the eighties, there has been a grave decline in the 'teen comedy' genre. We moved from a decade in which angst and unrequited love ruled, and into a decade where all the love was immediately achieved and angst took a back seat to loutish behaviour and overt childishness. So in this barren desert of American Pie and Dude, Where's My Car, the quiet arrival of Eight Days A Week is a welcome oasis.
The story is a simple, far-fetched one. Peter lives across the street from his one true love, Erica. Her fundamental Christian parents would love her to hook up with 'the sweet kid from across the street' but instead she hooks up with Nick, the school Jock. At the beginning of summer, while watching Erica playing with the local kids and a lawn sprinkler (yes, the movie could have been called Single White T-Shirt) his grandfather tells him of his great, great uncle Giuseppe, who stood under the balcony of his beloved day and night until she fell for him. And given that at the end of the summer, Erica was going away to college, Peter decided to give this a try, and moved into her front yard.
Now Erica wasn't immediately impressed with this, and neither was the more forthright Nick, but Peter stayed there. And it gave him much more than he bargained for. For one thing, his father called him crazy, and changed the locks to prevent him going in to wash and eat. His best friend Matt spent the summer regaling him of his tales of sexual self-sufficiency (apparently he is one of the 0.03% of men who achieve self-fellatio) and Erica's parents keep bringing him crucifix-shaped cookies. Things are not going well.
It's also the rest of the neighbourhood that intrigues Peter. There's the 'crazy lady' who eats in her car, tends her garden in a mask and snorkel, mows her lawn at night by torch-light, and makes phone calls when sat on the roof. There's the guy who always drove around the block three or four times before parking. There's Ms Lewis, the sexually frustrated lady next door, who grew to enjoy putting on a show for Peter. There was the sad man who wheeled his sad wife around in her wheelchair, then one day stopped taking her out. There were the neighbourhood kids, whose lives followed the same pattern as Peter's had (quiet kids being picked on by bullies). And through it all, there was Erica.
When Peter deliberately upsets her parents, Erica starts talking to him. When Peter's grandfather dies, she consoles him. They grow to be great friends, but will they be more before the summer ends?
This movie has great performances by the main characters, and is full of laughs, as well as many long lingering shots of Keri Russell's very well-designed body. But really it's the understated nature of the movie that gets you. There's no loud, crude belly laughs, and no big-name stars competing for screen time. It's a teen comedy the way they used to be made. And that's a rare thing these days.