Greetings again from the darkness. It’s been a few months since I saw a screening, and I’m a bit surprised it’s getting a wide release (beginning September 27). On one hand, it’s the directorial debut of the very talented and popular Joseph Gordon-Levitt. On the other hand, the subject matter is not exactly mainstream … he plays a compulsive type who is addicted to online porn. Stereotypes abound!
There is a lot to like here (and no, the film is not pornographic in nature). It’s a front line observation of some things going on in society right now. Technology has quickly sucked away much of our face to face social interaction. Jon (JGL) has a compulsive personality. He is obsessed with cleaning his apartment, showing off his muscle car, perfecting his body at the gym, continuing his string of one-night stands with hot girls, confessing his sins to the priest, and last but not least … online porn. He sees nothing wrong with his addiction but readily admits his real life conquests don’t meet his standards – no matter how pretty or personable they might be. Still, he goes through the motions of dance club pursuits to keep up his image with his buddies.
Even when he heads home for dinner with his family, communication is a mess. His sister (the great Brie Larson) never puts down her phone. His parents (Glenne Headly and Tony Danza) are bombastic and emotional. When Jon meets a “dime” (translated to a perfect 10 … why didn’t Blake Edwards think of that?), his mother talks only of grandkids and his dad congratulates him on “a nice piece of ___” (you get the point).
See, this “dime” is Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson. She has the look Jon so values and since he has no concept of how a relationship works, she easily manipulates him to transition into her ideal man (rom-com movies, college courses, etc). In a very telling scene, Barbara and Jon take in a Rom-Com spoof “based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks” and starring Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum. Barbara’s perfect man is a fictionalized knight in shining armor, while Jon’s perfect woman is the latest porn star. Though the issues are identical, neither sees their own flaws … only that of the other.
The story takes a dramatic turn when Jon meets Esther (Julianne Moore) in a somewhat embarrassing incident (for him). The budding relationship between the older mentor and her student of life could have made a much more interesting movie as she guides him down a path of self-discovery.
JGL, Scarlett and Ms. Moore are all very good in their roles, as is the entire supporting cast (Danza especially comical as the perfectly cast dad). Although there are some very humorous scenes and lines in the film, I found it somewhat dis-spiriting due to the observations it makes on the young adult generation. The final act seemed a bit too clean for real life, but that doesn’t take away from what is really a nice first outing for Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a filmmaker. Stay tuned as I expect even better from him in the future.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are brave enough for a peek at the social lives of single young adults in today’s world OR you want to see how the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitz handles his first hat trick: writer/director/actor
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: Scarlett’s “Jersey Shore” accent is more than your ears can stand.
watch the trailer: