Tag Archives: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

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.

Looper

10 Feb

looper

Director: Rian Johnson

Writer: Rian Johnson

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 119 minutes

Rian Johnson is a 39 year-old native of Maryland who is building an impressive TV and film resume. His breakthrough was the film Brick in 2005 and since then he has worked impressively on the film The Brothers Bloom and the TV series Breaking Bad. With Looper he has delivered his best work to date. He wrote and directed it and in both departments his talent shines through. This is splendid stuff – a time travelling thriller that works on multiple levels.

As with Brick, the lead actor is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Here he plays a hitman for the mob, a so-called looper. He gets paid to kill enemies of the mob sent back from the future. He eliminates them and any problems that they might create down the road for criminal paymasters he has never met. It’s a complex business time travel and clearly a sci-fi device, but it sits perfectly in the middle of this story. Johnson balances high concept with serious drama and gets great performances out of Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis (as the aged hitman).

The encounter between the young and the old killer is the cornerstone of Looper. This is about boys becoming men and the importance of mentors along the way. Willis has a lot to tell his younger self, but Gordon-Levitt is too busy living fast to worry about the future. In that future Willis has found love and as such this story is also about having a love that you will kill or die for – holding it tight no matter what. The aged hitman needs to educate the younger man about living, but has to do so without losing his own life in the process.

There are big themes here, cleverly interwoven and built on a strong screenplay. Looper has been passed over in awards season, but Johnson deserves a lot of credit for his writing on this. The cast is strong and all of the actors deliver (with Gordon-Levitt and Willis playing off each other particularly well). This is an eye-catching, absorbing, well-paced and moving film – all things that I struggled to find in last year’s blockbuster Inception. And what a great starting point; what would your 55 year old self tell your 25 year old self if it could?

50:50

2 Jun

Director:  Jonathan Levine

Writer: Will Reiser

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 100 minutes

 

 

 

This is the story of a 27 year old man (called Adam and played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who develops life threatening cancer aged 27. It is the story of his battle with cancer, his interactions with a young female therapist and the wide-ranging reactions of his friends and family. As such this is hardly mainstream Hollywood fair, but the film has a wholesome, Cineplex friendly cast and the production design of a regular American drama / comedy. Clearly the film makers wanted to make a film on a difficult subject, but open it up to the widest audience possible. That is commendable. However, it is a big task and 50:50 ultimately fails.

In going mainstream and targeting a mass audience, quite a few proven elements have been thrown into the mix here. Seth Rogen, as best friend Kyle, plays the same role that he did in Knocked-Up. Anna Kendrick, as the inexperienced therapist, plays the same role that she had in Up in the Air. Adam’s dysfunctional family is all a bit Little Miss Sunshine and the soundtrack (with Radiohead, Roy Orbison and Eddie Vedder) could have come from any Cameron Crowe movie. And then there is Adam and Kyle, yet another twenty-something bromance. Gordon-Levitt and Rogen act very well together in this, but I kept waiting for Paul Rudd to turn up.

There are some genuinely funny and touching moments in this film and it rattles along nicely enough. The sequences with Adam and two older cancer sufferers are very well done and the supporting cast is talented (including Angelica Huston and Philip Baker Hall). This is not a bad film, but it does not really work and I walked away from it slightly unsure of my feelings towards it. It has its heart in the right place and the actors put a lot into it, but it still doesn’t deliver enough for me.

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