He is only 26 years old, and yet Joseph Gordon-Levitt has had the kind of career of which many “stars” can only dream. Known by most people for his role in the hit television series “3rd Rock from the Sun,” Gordon-Levitt in recent years has had a string of captivating roles in film. Over the last year, I have been able to watch three of his latest performances, and I highly recommend the all three of them, as well as the films in which he gives them.
The first is the movie is Brick. This 2005 film is set in the present time in an American High School, but it has much more in common with the film noir movies of the 30s and 40s than it does with most of the tripe labeled for today’s older teens, like the American Pie films. Brick is a mystery, and the dialogue is stilted and reminiscent of some of the Coen brothers’ work. This use of language gives the movie an otherworldly tone that catches the ear, just as the storyline and film-making by Rian Johnson catches the imagination. If you are looking for something different to watch, Brick just might be the movie for you. Brick also has a very cool website, if you are interested.
Gordon-Levitt does another marvelous turn in Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin. His acting here has earned his high and deserved praise for his portrayal of a gay hustler, whose past and present is haunted by the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a little league coach. The other main character in Skin is played by Brady Corbett. He also was abused, but unlike Gordon-Levitt’s character, he does not remember what has happened to him. Instead he becomes more and more obsessed over alien abduction stories, thinking that his blackouts as child are the result of his own possible abduction. The two characters are, in many ways, polar opposites. Gordon-Levitt’s character becomes sexually promiscuous, while Corbett’s becomes all but asexual. The movie is graphic at times and not for the squeamish, but there is an honesty here that can be attested to by any survivor of sexual abuse.
Finally, this last year saw the release of The Lookout. As IMDB succinctly puts it: [In The Lookout], “Chris (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a once promising high school athlete whose life is turned upside down following a tragic accident. As he tries to maintain a normal life, he takes a job as a janitor at a bank, where he ultimately finds himself caught up in a planned heist.” The accident renders Chris unable to maintain his short-term memory, which he tries to overcome by covering his home with labels and by writing everything down that he needs to remember, even the most mundane of tasks. This leads to a recurring refrain in the film: “I wake up. I take a shower with soap.” Because of this, The Lookout has some passing similarities with the film Memento, but it is no rip-off. The Lookout stands out as an excellent film in its own right.
I give all three of these films 9 out of 10 dancing fish. While none of them are perfect films (only a very few are), they are all worth watching and reflecting upon. Also, on a personal level, I can’t wait to see what Gordon-Levitt does next.