Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johanssen, Julianne Moore, Glenne Headly, Tony Danza
Written by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Running Time: 91 mins
Release date: 15th November 2013
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has never shied away from difficult subjects in his movies and so it comes as no surprise that his directorial debut, of his own script, deals with a topic that has had many people hot under the collar recently, that of a man obsessed by internet porn. For a first time behind the camera, it’s a very assured piece of work that is smart, witty and full of character.
Jon is a New Jersey bachelor who spends his evenings searching the bars for women he can take home with him, even though sex isn’t satisfying him. To get his kicks, he turns to internet porn. Then he meets Barbara, a beautiful young woman who Jon becomes infatuated with. She, too, has a passion, for Hollywood romantic comedies and while he is desperate to find satisfaction in the bedroom, she is looking for that happy ending, even if it means changing her new love to make her happy. Can a man obsessed with pron really change or can he find answers in the most unlikely of places?
Levitt’s has a terrific eye for the visuals. The film could have quite easily been a point and act affair but he pushes himself to make it much more interesting than that. The opening is a montage that introduces Jon and his world with enough information to know exactly who he is and where he is coming from. Barbara’s fascination with rom-coms is neatly summed up by having the glowing face of the girl mixed in with short clips of a fake film (with cameos from rom-com king and queen, Channing Tatum and Anne Hataway). There’s a neat continuing sequence when Jon goes to confession that runs through the film and shows the church’s attitude to sex.
The script is also very fine indeed, filled with realistic conversations that sound like we are eavesdropping on private chit-chats. None more so than a scene in which Barbara complains about Jon cleaning his own apartment and buying cleaning products. Sometimes it does come across as cocky and too self-assured but this is a minor flaw in a tale that is pacy and quirky without being too odd.
The performances are pitched nicely. Levitt, as screenwriter , could have easily written a nice, clean-cut character for himself but Jon is massively flawed. A misogynist with anger management problems when he gets in his car, who enjoys nothing but self-satisfaction in front of a laptop is hardly the kind of person you’d want to spend five minutes with but Levitt manages to keep him this side of likeable and for all his flaws, you don’t mind spending time with him. Scarlett Johanssen fits the bill nicely as Barbara. Wearing the tightest clothes possible, you can see why Jon falls for her. Playing a street smart New Jersey gal, she pulls it off.
It is Julianne Moore, as a middle-aged woman Jon meets at night school who almost steals the film. She has such a strong screen presence that you can understand how she wins over Jon. Even if her screen time is minimal, she proves once again why she’s an amazing screen actress. A delightfully competent performance.
It would have been more interesting if we had seen more of Barbara’s obsession with rom-coms and while the ending is a happy one, it is also unexpected. It isn’t perfect but you can see that Levitt’s is a film maker with talent who has a good ear for dialogue (Cormac McCarthy, take heed). He also manages to make porn not as sleazy as we would thing it is and that’s a hard thing to do. A romantic comedy with a difference and one that works well.