Don Jon – LFF Film Review

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the perfect example of how well a child star can turn out. Since his childhood spent making us laugh in 3rd Rock from the Sun Gordon-Levitt has steadily been building up an acting CV filled with impressive roles in both indie fare and mainstream blockbusters. Now to impress us further he has written and directed his own feature in which he also stars. Oh Joseph, is there anything you can’t do?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Jon, a man obsessed with his car and his body and who is nicknamed Don Jon by his friends because of his unbroken streak of taking home a different woman every night they go out. Much as Jon loves these illicit encounters there is one thing he loves more than sex; Jon is addicted to porn. While a real woman comes with limitations and complication with porn Jon can find exactly what he wants and lose himself in a way he has never been able to achieve with sex itself. The wide variety of porn available at his fingertips has warped what Jon expects from a real life sexual encounter and his streaming smut is something he refuses to give up.

One night at the club Jon comes across the first woman who doesn’t fall for his charms and somehow manages to NOT go home with him. This woman is Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and she isn’t going to let Jon get her in bed without him first playing along with her idea of what a relationship should be. Barbara does not approve of porn but has a weakness for romantic comedies (cue an amusing parody with Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum) which has warped her own expectations of what men should do for their woman. Jon and Barbara go through the motions of a relationship as they meet one another’s friends and family but Barbara can’t live up to Jon’s pornographic ideals and he isn’t the romantic lead she’s looking for. With the help of a classmate, at the night school he attends to impress Barbara, an older woman called Ester (Julianne Moore) Jon learns that there’s more to life than porn.

Gordon-Levitt directs with a confident and deliberate style with an almost aggressive use of carefully cropped pornographic clips which are frequently utilised throughout the film to show how Jon’s world is warped by the contents of his internet browser history. As a writer he has crafted a film that strays from the usual path and tells a unique story of one man’s personal growth that is as far from cheesy or saccharin as it is possible to be. Gordon-Levitt has a lot he wants to say about the way the media as a whole gives us dangerous levels of expectations from our significant others and at times the message gets a little heavy-handed but when the film is working at its best the lesson is deftly handled.

The highlights of the film for me were Jon’s weekly trips to church during which he would confess the previous seven days worth of sins, his sexual exploits are counted up for the Father’s benifit, followed by a family dinner. It is at these meals that we see what has made Jon into Don Jon with his aggressive vest wearing father (Tony Danza) and fawning mother (Glenne Headly) who are two fantastically realised caricatures. Brie Larson makes a mostly mute, and a slightly too brief, appearance as Jon’s sister who seems mostly disinterested in her family but offers him the best advice of the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first foray behind the camera is not perfect but is a bold and commanding debut with a lot to say. Somehow he manages to tackle a tricky subject without making the film seem cheap or smutty. I think his success can be marked by the fact that a sex scene towards the end of the film had the woman sitting next to me in floods of tears after having spent the rest of the film laughing out loud.

Don Jon screens at the festival on the 20th October and is in UK cinemas on 15th November 2013.

BFI London Film Festival 2013

Lincoln – Film Review

Lincoln

I was lucky enough to see Lincoln two weeks before its release. The advantage of this being that I can review it before most people get a chance to see the film and therefore bring vital eyes to the site. As such I have waited until after the film has hit cinemas to put fingers to keys try to review this dramatic behemoth. So why have I done this? Am I secretly trying to sabotage my own website? Surprisingly, no. The truth is that I’m scared.

Lincoln has been nominated for a whopping 12 Oscars this year and has critical acclaim seeping out of its every pore and yet… I found it dull. I’m not trying to be controversial and say that the most praised film of the year is bad as Lincoln is clearly not a bad film. It is possible though for a fine leading performance, stunning photography, and a subject of historic importance to culminate in a two and a half hour masterpiece that literally sent me to sleep in the early afternoon.

Lincoln 1

With such an extensive running time you might expect Lincoln to cover the length and breadth of Abe’s life but instead the film focuses on a four-month period in which the titular character campaigns to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives. The amendment in question would abolish slavery and hopefully end the civil war in the process. With what is essentially a period political drama on his hands Stephen Spielberg is robbed of any action set-pieces and so takes on an unusually subtle directorial style as he is faced with endless scenes of bearded men talking in rooms.

The men in question are lit beautifully, are garnished with the finest beards Hollywood can produce, and are played by a diverse cast of character actors but their exploits border on the mundane. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a typically authentic performance as the late US president but his Lincoln is a calm and considered man whose gentle voice and subtle mannerisms did not help me to maintain consciousness.

Lincoln 2

Looking back at the film I find it hard to comprehend how Spielberg managed to stretch this story into such a long film. In the short period I dozed for I missed none of the plot as progress was slow and a little grating. Lincoln may well be beautifully shot and contain acting of the highest calibre but it long overstays its welcome and does not appear to have even heard of pacing. Bizarrely for a film this epic in length and with a focus on slavery we never see the misery of slavery itself or are shown the improvements that the amendment brings to the country.

All this negativity aside credit goes to Lee Pace, James Spader, and Tommy Lee Jones for stealing the show from Daniel Day-Lewis and commiserations to Joseph Gordon-Levitt for not having a lot to do.

There is every chance that Lincoln will win a good proportion of its Oscar nominations but frankly I don’t think it deserves to. There’s a good film hiding in Lincoln but a serious amount of editing is needed to get to the heart of the story. For a film with a foregone conclusion for an ending, it takes far too long to get to it.

Yes, three stars. I’m not brave enough to give it less.

Looper – Film Review

In the future time travel has not been invented, in the future’s future it has. Naturally the technology has been made illegal and is only used as part of organised crime. Mob bosses send targets back in time to be killed by assassins known as Loopers. A Looper lives a life of luxury and excess thanks to each victim travelling back in time with four gold bars strapped to their back. A Looper is released from their contract when they complete their Loop and the mob sends their future self back to be killed. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a Looper who comes a cropper when his future self (Bruce Willis) arrives and goes on the run.

And this is where my review falls apart. There is so much complexity beyond the initial set-up that has left my mind reeling for the past four days but none of it can be discussed in a spoiler-free review. The marketing for Looper has cleverly kept a whole farm/child based part of the plot completely under wraps and I’m not going to go ruining that here.

As a result Looper is a rare example of a film in which you do not know how it will end, nor for that matter what is going to happen in the very next scene. Apart from being gorgeous and clever (much like the team here at Mild Concern) Looper is surprising in the avenues it take you down as it explores love, self-sacrifice, and the importance of good parenting.

Rian Johnson may have lost some of the visual flair he had back in the days of Brick but this is still a stunning film and he has created a fully realised and thoroughly lived-in futuristic world. For every hover bike there are a dozen old cars with solar panels clumsily strapped to the roof. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are fantastically matched as opposite sides of the same coin and the facial prosthetics were nowhere near as distracting as I’d feared. Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, and Emily Blunt are great too but all are outshone by Pierce Gagnon, a young boy in a pivotal role that I refuse to discuss.

Time travel films will never fully make sense but, as Willis tells us near the start of Looper, it really isn’t worth bothering about. This film shows that sci-fi and action can be both clever and fun and don’t have to involve a climactic battle at a ski resort for no reason (I’m looking at you Inception).

Absolute Amazement
Easily one of the best films of 2012.

Looper – New Trailers

Looper, the indie sci-fi action thriller about a man contracted to kill his future self sent back from the future, has a second slightly longer UK trailer and a UK poster to boot.

Directed by indie film wunderkind Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Bruce Willis’ face Looper has easily become my most anticipated film of 2012. It even comes above Katy Perry: Part Of Me which is saying something.

Oooh trailer!

Ooh posters! (click to see versions larger than you know what to do with)

You may notice a UK mobile phone number written on the door in the poster, I called it and just got the message “calls to this number are barred”. However a trip to www.07153902935.com reveals a viral website featuring a single film still. I expect more will come over time.

UPDATE: There’s a new US trailer now too!

Looper – Teaser

It’s here! It’s finally here!

Looper, the time travel action film from Brick director Rian Johnson starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, finally has its first teaser trailer. From the footage on show it looks like Johnson hasn’t lost the visual flair that made Brick such a memorable debut.

Prepare for me to talk about this film for the rest of the year. Apologies in advance.