Archive | March, 2014

Don Jon

25 Mar

 

don jon

 

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Writers: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 90 minutes

 

 

The internet has substantial power to corrupt and harm peoples’ perceptions of sex. The lack of real and immediate intimacy can desensitize those viewing sex remotely. Internet sex can advance stigmas, prejudices and encourage anti-social behaviour. It can be the same with internet violence, but that subject is less taboo than pornography which is, ironically, the most trafficked online content. It is rare for a film to tackle the topic of porn addiction so Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL), the writer, director and star here, deserves plaudits for Don Jon.

Gordon-Levitt’s Jon is sort of positioned as a modern day Don Juan and has accepted the ‘Don’ nickname from his admiring buddies. Jon spends his nights picking up ladies in neighbourhood bars and clubs and his days working out at the gym and watching porn. It’s a simple life. So simple that his work status is never confirmed. What we are told is that he loves his mother, goes to church each week, values his ride, his body, and good-looking chicks (on and offline).

Jon’s problem is his addiction to porn. He cannot go a day and sometimes an hour without it. He obsesses as much about internet sex as he does about his gym workouts and his weekly church confessions. It clouds his views on sex, love and relationships (that Jon feels are inferior in the real world). And that is the story being told here; how online porn can distort and ruin lives by preventing users from making real connections. It is a worthwhile and interesting tale, but the film comes up short in some key areas.

Jon is an unpleasant and one-dimensional character which is brave of JGL to create and play, but is unhelpful for most of the film. His interactions with the two main female characters are often awkward and Jon is hard to engage with. He chases and dates Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and hangs out with Esther (Julianne Moore). He loves the way that Barbara looks and he likes the way that Esther challenges him, but those couplings don’t always convince. It feels forced, the plot turns are well sign-posted, Jon’s family is a sit-com cliché (with Tony Danza playing dad), and only in the final 20 minutes does the film provoke real emotion.

Overall, this is a good first effort from JGL and the film should be applauded for its subject matter. The acting is solid, with Moore as usual showing up to best effect, and there are a few funny lines and scenes. It’s not particularly subtle or insightful, but I imagine that the intended 18 – 28 year old target audience will thoroughly enjoy it and possibly learn from it. To that extent it has to be classed a success.

The Selfish Giant

7 Mar

the selfish giant

 

Director: Clio Barnard

Writer: Clio Barnard

Stars: Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Sean Gilder

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 91 minutes

 

Clio Barnard, the British writer director of The Arbor (2010), was inspired by Oscar Wilde’s short story for children to bring this piece of social realism to the screen. Wilde’s giant owns a beautiful garden in which children love to play on their way home from school. Barnard’s giant is a tough scrap metal merchant and his ‘garden’ is the rusting, dark and dangerous yard for which most children stay clear. That’s the children regularly attending school, the children with parents to worry about them whilst they get on with their homework. That’s not the two children at the centre of this tale; Arbor (Conner Chapman) and Swifty (Shaun Thomas).

The two boys hanging around the scrap metal yard come from an impoverished community on the edge of Bradford. They live on council estates in broken homes. Jobs are scarce, life is hard and there is a pervading air of anger and despair. Both boys, best friends around 15 years old, show flashes of anti-social behaviour from the outset, but Arbor is particularly troubled. He is on medication, clearly struggles to control himself and rarely attends school. He sees the scrap yard as a way to make money and drags along the gentle and mature Swifty. They annoy the yard owner Kitten (Sean Gilder), but he allows them in, gives them odd jobs and takes an interest in Swifty.

The story is simple. It follows the boys’ interactions with Kitten, the escalation in risks they’re willing to take to collect scrap and the impact of both on their friendship. Throughout there are some beautiful shots of dusk and dawn in the boys’ neighbourhood; of pylons, common ground, stray horses and vacant lots. Everything is haggard and past its best, but at the same time the cinematography pulls something from the void. It is rarely hopeful, but it is beguiling.

Whilst the story is simple, there is more going on in this film to subtly challenge the viewer. As with Wilde’s fable for children, themes touched upon include the end of childhood and the bonds between friends and within communities. Arbor and Swifty have their friendship challenged by their interaction with Kitten and the scavenging for scrap ekes away at their childishness. They are forced to become ‘adults’ and that’s as sad as the broken communities in which they roam. As such this is a deeply affecting film and I shed a tear or two at the end. Clio Barnard has produced a perfectly small, powerful and moving film about real life and with two excellent performances from the young and novice actors.

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