This got the number 8 spot in my top films of 2013 and I guess after watching it again, I shall expand on why I like it enough to warrant it a top 10 status. It’s incredibly slick and sexy, there’s a fine amount of comedy and romance and though some ideas aren’t perfect the movie proves to be cool, clever and interesting.
It’s a story revolving around the pumped up Jersey lad Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who cares for his body, car, friends, women and porn. This last obsession could ruin the amazing chance he has with new partner Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) and maybe a fellow night student called Esther (Julianne Moore) could make Jon see what he’s doing wrong.
As a debut director, Gordon-Levitt nearly hits it out of the ball park. He does definitely demonstrate some charisma in acting and directing terms, the quick and smooth sections accompanied by spot on voice overs contribute to this stylish feel. It’s in his world of porn viewing that the largest amount of style and comedy arrives, the simplicity of the start up sound doing more than enough to crack a smile and make you realise what Jon is doing. This simple audio device is once again used to comedic effect in the nightclub scenes when Jon eyes up his next sexual partner.
It’s a confident film with a simple narrative utilising family, religion, relationships and sex. The routine Jon has is brilliantly executed in repeated images of him entering church or the gym, the panning shot of him and his family sat in their pew is a nice touch, if just for Brie Larson’s disinterest heightened more than at the dinner table. When a new figure comes along, some of these routines change and that has more effect after seeing them pretty much the same before then.
The whole debate of virtual sex and real dramatic partnerships is a great platform to base a film on and though it doesn’t go to outstanding levels, you do see both sides of the argument and ultimately there is an end answer to whether or no porn is brilliant. The laddish talk and fanastising of perfect women doing all kinds of things is understandable and so to is the flip-side of someone not appreciating them loving it more than them. Seen through manically edited porno videos to raise the adrenaline or the twee romance of movies starring Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway is a big contrasting tool to set apart Jon and Barbara and however obvious there stances on life are, it works well.
It’s quite a touching story at times, with Moore’s character providing more of the grounded human aspect needed for this film. Esther is there but not at the same time and it’s clear she has a sad background, this three dimensional persona in fact makes her the best character in the film, Jon and Barbara merely serving as caricatures of the Jersey lifestyle which is both suitable and annoying.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a twinkled eyed star, but to good effect he loses that good guy image and becomes a greasier gel haired objectifier with eyes only on stellar bodies, himself and the female species included. He opens up and becomes more real when around Esther and this is a nice character progression to have. Scarlett Johansson is just gorgeous. Now that shouldn’t be a acting review but it works in favour for her male gaze character. She plays the romantically inclined dreamer of homely togetherness to fab effect, in fact making you dislike her because she cannot care about Jon. Julianne Moore, as mentioned is the best character and she acts that mysterious past well, while all the time being frank, engaging and believable. Brie Larson has the moment to say what we all think after being quiet for so long. Tony Danza is a great way to show how Jon is and could be and his football and Barbara focused passion are very funny.
A fun and slick insight into relationships from differing sides, the sentiment that finally lands may be too predictable and sugar coated but the debauchery, sex, comedy and style that comes before, more than makes up for it in a thoughtful and satisfying directorial debut from Levitt.