Joseph Gordon-Levitt has come a long way since when I first saw him as the son on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Whether its from his agent or from his own decisions, he’s made some great choices in the roles. Ten Things I Hate About You, (500) Days of Summer, Brick, and The Dark Knight Rises stand as some of his best performances. With his directorial debut, he goes off the beaten path with the subject matter.
Jon has many loves in his life: his car, his bachelor pad, his friends and family, and his porn. He gets a thrill from the sexual images and videos he finds on the internet. When he meets a girl, Barbara, he begins to fall in love with her. Yet, he still keeps up the porn habit. When she catches him one night, that leads to an ultimatum: no more porn, or the relationship is over.
Despite promising not to, Jon still watches porn behind her back. Its something he just can’t give up. The relationship between Jon and Barbara becomes serious and she starts asserting herself more in his life. She dictates aspects of his life. It reaches a boiling point when she finds out Jon still watches porn.
While Jon is a despicable character, he stands as an interesting study of how expectations towards a relationship are affected by porn. The fantasy of porn can impact how one views the reality of sex. Another instance I found interesting was the female equivalent of porn, which would be romance novels and movies. On dating websites, I see women waiting for a “knight in shining armor” or their “cowboy.” Sad reality is they don’t exist, which impacts the reality of the grade of men out there and how they’ll always fall short of those fantasy-fueled expectations.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes on porn addiction with a sexual frankness. Many films try to hide or limit the pornographic elements, yet here’s a film that puts it in front of the audience. That takes some courage and actually addresses the issue in a mature manner, without compromise. The R-rating helped keep the annoying tweens out, and still deserving of its rating.
Performance-wise, this is a dramatic change for JGL. Normally, he plays a squeaky clean, charming young man. As Jon, he plays an obnoxious, Jersey-type that you really want to punch in the face. If it were any other actor, I wouldn’t care for the character as much. With Gordon-Levitt, its a striking transformation.
His supporting cast gives him a lot to work with. Scarlett Johansson as Barbara was hilarious with her Jersey Girl/Fran Drescher voice. Tony Danza and Glenne Headly stole the movie as Jon’s parents. I hope to see more of Danza on-screen in the future because he was really good here. Julianne Moore plays a fellow classmate of Jon, who turns into something more as the movie progresses.
For his first outing as director, Gordon-Levitt presents a stylish, richly lit film. Lauren Zuckerman’s editing with Wesley Alley’s lighting and Meghan C. Rogers’ production design made for an eye-catching movie. This shows much ambition often lacking in veteran directors and I hope Gordon-Levitt can maintain this early momentum.
JGL has already established himself as a top, young talent in front and behind the camera. He keeps getting better with each project he works on. This movie is worthy of a theatrical viewing. If you’re the frugal type, it’ll be worth owning on DVD. Either way, see this movie.