The Tao of Steve, a happy making Gen-X disquisition on sex and romance, is that rare Sundance discovery: a movie with a love of place (Santa Fe), a love of how people talk (with quick wittedness gaining the edge on glibness), a sense of humor (but not self indulgence) about its own characters, and, above all, a sense of proportion. It’s a tiny, sunny character study about a fat guy who’s an unlikely chick magnet. And as such it’s a pip.
Of course, first time director Jenniphr Goodman landed a piece of indie filmmaker good fortune when she met up with Duncan North, the actual plump Santa Fe preschool teacher on whom this romantic comedy is based. But she was even luckier to get Donal Logue (”The Patriot”) in the role of Dex, North’s romantically enhanced, fictionalized self — because the charismatic Logue, with his appealing equanimity and ease in his own Klumpy body, cushions every sharp line with soft heart. (Two favorites: ”Doing stuff is overrated.” ”God is the loneliest dude in the universe.”)
”Steve,” incidentally, refers to a state of manly coolness (cooler than Steve McQueen there is none), the opposite of which is ”Stu.” But ”The Tao” is more concerned with how overeducated, underachieving Dex — who bases his successful seduction skills on wisdom culled from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu — falls in love for real, with a young woman of substance and sanity (a nice debut for Greer Goodman, the director’s sister and, along with North, cowriter of the script).
Dex learns, as even a fat, funny underachiever must, that shtick needs to take a holiday for intimacy to occur. And with the wide open, cornflower blue sky of New Mexico above him and a wittily chosen soundtrack at his back, Dex’s emotional adult education pays off in a well-built character any moviegoer could go for.