Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Written by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlet Johansson, Julianne Moore, Brie Larson, Tony Danza and Glenne Headly.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut is an interesting one. To its credit it is new, interesting and entertaining. Gordon-Levitt clearly has a message as he plays the eponymous Jon who escapes into his obsession with porn rather than connect with another person or learn about himself. I give credit to Gordon-Levitt for making me think during a film that could have been reduced to a romantic comedy with a twist. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a self-indulgent project or a meditation on isolation and the misrepresentation of relationships in a sex obsessed culture. Where Gordon-Levitt falters is in his character portrayal but, overall, I was impressed with his writing, direction and wit.
What I liked: Gordon-Levitt’s use of repetition works. His narrative framework is based around a series of mundane events – home, porn, sex, clubbing, the gym, cleaning, church and family dinner – that convey his character’s disconnectedness and masked despair. Gordon-Levitt also conveys his ideas with an artistic flare that is thought-provoking, witty and fearlessly uncomfortable.
What I didn’t like: His characters, while at times endearing and relate-able, are no more than caricatures, which is probably why he is being taken to task for what the Italian American One Voice Coalition believes are “racist stereotypes” rather than developed characters. I think Gordon-Levitt pulls off his Jersey Shore-type character with flare, because it is so outside our perception of him as an actor that beneath his empty façade we recognize the scrawny do-gooder of 50/50, (500) Days of Summer or even Batman. The rest of the characters offer no such recognizable depth other than Julianne Moore who escapes the stereotype and offers the real soul of the film. To be fair, Scarlett Johansson has fun with her role and is both convincing and comical as the romance obsessed love interest. While I imagine creating such extreme characters was the point, I still can’t quite figure out why since many of us ‘real folk’ often feel the same way or limit ourselves to routine so I can see how the message was lost.
My rating: An admirable first effort and worth watching, because it is new.