Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 09/27/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 09/27/2013 8:53 AM | Updates
THE unprecedented availability of porn in contemporary life is a phenomenon that is never really seriously addressed in pop culture, save for a few naughty gags in teen comedies and late-night talk shows.
It is thus doubly impressive that in his writing-directing debut, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt meets the topic head-on, as it were.
Gordon-Levitt himself plays Jon, a piece of Jersey beefcake who, to outward appearances, enjoys a life of satisfying routine inventoried thus: "My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn."
The guy is well-meaning and generally benign, but not exactly intellectually adventurous when it comes to stuff beyond that narrowly defined lifestyle. As far as women are concerned, he doesn't see any reason not to rate any possible bedmates on the one-to-10 scale.
But his world gets turned around upon meeting Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) -- a solid 10, or as his buddies phrase it, "a dime."
You may be lulled into guessing, according to rom-com formula, that this is the woman who will force Jon to grow up, reject that pesky porn habit and gain entrance into the real world of erotic fulfilment.
Guess again. As a matter of fact, in the courtship sequence, Gordon-Levitt suggests that the movie rom-com is as insidious a distraction for women as porn is for men, allowing its viewers to lose themselves in an unrealistic fantasy. (Good luck getting work in a rom-com from now on, Mr. Gordon-Levitt.)
In any case, Jon can't leave the porn behind, even immediately after successfully bedding the seemingly perfect Ms. Sugarman. When she catches him in the onanistic act, post-coitus, she makes him promise to stop.
Under the duress of breaking the porn habit, our hero is forced to re-evaluate his other assumptions, including his church -- which always hands out the same penance, regardless of his confessed sins -- and his family.
Jon's hot-tempered dad, while comically portrayed by Tony Danza, demonstrates that the sexist acorn doesn't fall far from the sexist tree. It's difficult to say which is more creepy: Dad's ogling of the hottie Barbara when she comes to dinner, or Jon's apparent happiness at his dad's sweaty approval.
There is a woman who can help in this reconsideration, but she is well outside Jon's comfort zone. Esther (Julianne Moore) is a classmate at Jon's night school who notices his penchant for discreetly watching porn on his smartphone and helpfully gifts him with an erotic DVD of a movie that once turned her on, you know, back in the day.
Gordon-Levitt is a more assured actor than he is a director. While well-performed and tightly written, the film registers as being a little rough around the edges, especially after Jon suffers a kind of breakdown and indulges in a lost-weekend porn binge. Up to that point, Gordon-Levitt the director had eschewed any heavy-handed stylistic flourishes, so when they come, it feels awkward and untrue to the material.
Fortunately, that does not detract from the overall effectiveness of this movie, with its caustic comedy and its uniformly fine performances, especially by Johansson as a dream girl with more than a hint of nightmare.
Mostly, one is impressed by Gordon-Levitt's gutsy willingness to address this theme in a smart, insightful way.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 D3
Updated on Friday, September 27, 2013 at 8:53 AM CDT: adds video
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Sundance First Look: Pearce, Smulders get rom com 'Results'
Worker dies on Taiwan film lot to be used for Scorsese movie
New on DVD/VOD
First Look: 'Dope' is fresh, funny and music-filled
For Sundance hits, theatrical still rules over VOD
'Ghostbusters' cast set with McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon, Jones
Prosecutor: Gregg Allman filmmaker never given immunity
Review: Something's missing from the deck in 'Wild Card'
'Selma' star supports Cumberbatch over "colored" comment
Review: Tragedies of 'Timbuktu' told with rare beauty
Review: A tired gimmick weakens thriller 'Project Almanac'
Diversity at Sundance doesn't carry over to Hollywood
Sundance Watch: Celebs talk fest, iPhone film premieres
Sundance Watch: 'Tangerine' shot entirely with iPhones
Sundance Quick Quote: Spike Lee discovers crowd funding
Sundance Watch: Redford brings film to his own festival
Private jets, mega yachts marketed at Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Quick Quote: Rashida Jones on porn, sex and women
Common, John Legend to perform 'Glory' at Academy Awards
Sundance Watch: 'Me and Earl' becomes breakout hit at fest
'Django Unchained' actress pleads not guilty to lewd conduct
Sundance Watch: Celebrities sound off on the fest
Review: 'Black or White' wrestles with race in custody drama
Adrian Grenier enjoys anonymity on empty slopes at Sundance
Audrey Tautou, Matthew Weiner among Berlin film fest jury
So it is written...
Death From Above doc screens at Cinematheque
Sundance Watch: Fans angle for selfies, Reynolds talks poker
Why Ryan Reynolds says he's a dangerous poker player
McCain gives thumbs up to 'American Sniper' movie
Sundance Watch: 'Cobain' premieres, women talk Hollywood
Emma Watson to star in live-action 'Beauty and the Beast'
Cumberbatch says sorry for calling black actors 'colored'
Birdman flies away with SAG Awards
Cobain doc brings mom, child together
'Birdman' tops SAG Awards, Redmayne upsets Keaton
First Look: Sundance doc pulls back curtain on Scientology
Sundance Quick Quote: Redford's thoughts on marketers
Courtney Love, Frances Bean appear together at Sundance