I wasn’t eager to see a film about a guy addicted to
internet porn, but I should have had more faith in its gifted writer, director
and star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This is a remarkably mature and thoughtful film—and
a solid feature debut behind the camera for an actor who has consistently made
intelligent and daring career choices. Every detail of his modest film is well
thought out and executed, from the spot-on casting to his canny use of sound
and music (for which he turned to Nathan Johnson, the brother and collaborator
of Rian Johnson, Gordon-Levitt’s director on Brick and Looper).
Gordon-Levitt plays the title character, a macho Italian-American who hangs out with his pals in Jersey, rates the looks of women he spots in bars, and counts off the “Hail Marys” from his weekly church confession at the local gym. There’s just one hitch: although he enjoys sex, it doesn’t give him nearly as much satisfaction as watching porn on his laptop. As he tells us, he loses himself there in a way he can’t in bed.
It would be enough of a challenge to play a dynamic character like this while directing, but the actor has filled his picture with colorful and interesting figures played by Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and, as his lively and utterly believable family Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, and Brie Larson. (Larson participates in a hilarious running sight-gag until the very end of the story—but I don’t want to give anything away.)
Some critics might find Gordon-Levitt’s story resolution a bit too schematic or pat, but I thought it was extremely moving—not to mention unusual—especially for a film with a subject that normally invites sniggering laughter.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s work as an actor has grown along with his public recognition in recent years. Now we can look forward to even more interesting work from him as a filmmaker who is wise beyond his years.