Releasing today on DVD is the most imaginative love story in a decade or more,Her. Writer/director Spike Jonze’s unique vision of the near future offers a compelling, tender peek at what may lie in store for a generation weaned off of intimacy by technology. Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix are perfection as the lovebirds, but Jonze and his imagination are the real stars.
Another unusual take on romance worth checking out is Joseph Gordon Levitt’s writing/directing debut Don Jon. Coincidentally, the film also boasts a magnificent performance from Scarlett Johansson – just one of several great turns in delightful and loaded cast. Check out Tony Danza! JGL skewers a culture that encourages alienation and suppresses intimacy – two obstacles also facing the lovers in Her. It’s a confident, clever, surprising effort from a filmmaker to watch.
Lake Bell makes her feature directing debut with a clever and insightful look at the world of voiceover talent, In a World… , which is available today on DVD. Also writing and starring, she plays Carol, quirky vocal coach and daughter to a buttery-voiced industry legend who doesn’t believe women belong in his business. Boasting finely drawn characters as well as wit and charm to spare, Bell’s unique debut will leave you smiling.
Pair it with Joseph Gordon Levitt‘s debut behind the camera and pen, Don Jon. Both newbie filmmakers show surprising confidence and genuine aptitude. JGL plays a Jersey player who has either found the girl of his dreams or is facing a harsh reality about his intimacy problems. A witty and honest and insightful observation of our times.
Look at little Tommy Solomon! Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proven himself a versatile actor in the years since his TV career in the guise of a pre-pubescent Earthling. With his newest effort, Don Jon, he exhibits surprising confidence and aptitude as both a screenwriter and a director.
The film follows Jon (Gordon-Levitt), a Jersey player who cares deeply about only a handful of things: his bod, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, his porn.
Guess which one of those gets him into trouble.
Maybe the best way to appreciate what Don Jon is, is to quickly cover what it is not. Don Jon is not a traditional romantic comedy. It is not a sexy romp, or a perfect flick for hangin’ with your bros.
No. It’s a sexually frank, cleverly written, confidently directed independent comedy/drama about our culture of objectification. It’s an alert comment on a society that fears intimacy, collects trophies, and looks to get more than it gives; a culture that raises girls to want to be princesses, and guys to collect sexual conquests. A culture where a fast food restaurant honestly advertises its newest sandwich by having an oiled up, bikini clad super model spread her legs while she enjoys the tasty burger.
The effort certainly carries its flaws, but JGL gets credit for upending expectations, and for brilliantly paralleling romantic comedies and porn – because, let’s be honest, they are equally damaging to our concept of relationship.
Writing and direction are nothing without a cast, and Gordon-Levitt proves just as savvy in that department. Tony F. Danza, ladies and gentlemen! Danza has fun as Jon’s role model father, while this season’s go-to girl Brie Larson – with barely a word – scores as his observant sister.
Gordon-Levitt’s own perfectly crafted swagger finds its match in a gum-chewing Scarlett Johansson, whose sultry manipulator is spot-on.
The fledgling auteur stumbles by Act 3 – quite a letdown after such a well articulated premise. The underdeveloped resolution would hinder the effort more were it not for the presence of Julianne Moore as the eccentric and wise Esther. The role may be a bit clichéd, but Moore is incapable of anything less than excellence.
It won’t be long before we’re saying the same of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Until the end, he proves himself an insightful observer of his times, a cagey storyteller, and an artist with limitless potential.