First things first: Don Jon never quite comes alive as a work of fiction. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first directorial effort promises style but uses it sloppily. Plus, it’s as often messily sloppy as it is fascinatingly sloppy. The themes it unveils are multitudinous and often at-odds with one another, and many are not fully reconciled. Put simply, I’m confident JGL had a damn good idea of his film in his head, and he set about using visual storytelling and honest-to-god mise-en-scene, but he forgot to check himself and make sure all his ingredients were setting in the oven. The film swerves back and forth with hectic zeal and energy between a stinging, bitter, and harshly clinical dissection of obsessive compulsion disorder and something much frothier indeed, not quite romantic comedy and not quite snarky attack on the whole of New Jersey as a state. It’s so busy with all these themes it never really has time to come up for air. The end result is something that is stylistically compelling if not for any specific purpose, fascinating in individual moments but much much less than the sum of its parts. Continue reading
Or: a couple of short reviews I had penned and linked together in one of my patented “just made up on the spot” combinations, namely that they are both products of 2005, they are both depressingly cynical and nihilistic modern reflections of the long history of their respective genres, and they, respectively, fit into the genres I’ve covered in the past couple months: the western and film noir. Again, don’t think too much about why I posted these films together. Just enjoy the ride.
The significant resurgence of the Western genre since about 2005 (for reasons I’m not entirely sure of) is one of the few truly surprisingly revelations from the cinematic world to be found this past decade. It’s all the more notable particularly because the Westerns themselves have taken so many different forms, from pure, effervescent myth-making, to black-hearted heaving gasps of grimy moral decay, to slowly gliding, almost Impressionist location tapestries where characters serve merely as extensions of the environment, to plain ol’ rootin-tootin shoot em’ up character studies.
One of the first, and among the absolute best, in this trend was John Hillcoat’s rusty nail mauling of the gaping, open wound flesh wound of Australian history, The Proposition. It wouldn’t emerge the best Western over the past ten years (my vote would probably go to the sensuous The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), but it’s within earshot of the title. Considering the film’s swaggering aimlessness and rough-around-the-edges decay, it may even graze that ear. Continue reading
There’s a lot to be said about Looper, but perhaps the most important thing speaks less to the successes of the film than to the dreary state of the pseudo-genre “time travel” movie and the larger science fiction genre as a whole. Simply put, time travel in film is usually a gimmick, an attempt to superficially make movies with otherwise little box office potential seem more falsely intellectual to audiences. Most science fiction movies that rely on the trope, along with a bevy of other themes such as cloning and space travel, are not interested in exploring the intellectual, emotional, or ethical quandaries presented by these subjects, but instead pay lip service to complicated themes so that they can move on to blowing up stuff and hoping the 30 year old white male budding action hero lead actor will land a role as the lead in a superhero movie next and boost DVD sales of the film. Thus is life. Continue reading