October 1, 2013 -- This unusual romantic comedy, written, directed and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as porn addict Jon Martello, is a funny, smart look at modern day romance and pornography. It goes about as far as possible with an “R” rating, but it would have to go beyond the safe limits of that rating to really get into the subjects of sex and pornography the way it seems to want to.
Jon is a 30-year-old man who is hooked on pornography, keeps himself fit and keeps his apartment clean. Instead of love, he has an endless series of one night stands. The only sex he really enjoys is masturbating in front of a computer screen. He thinks his life is going really well, except for frequent fits of road rage.
Then he sees the most beautiful girl in the world, Barbara Sugarman (played by Scarlett Johansson of “Marvels The Avengers”) and he falls in love with her. He goes back to school and makes other changes to please her, but when she finds out that he can't stop watching pornography on the internet, she leaves him. He tries to go back to his old life of one night stands, but it isn't working for him anymore.
Then Jon meets an older woman in class, Esther (Julianne Moore of “The Kids Are All Right”) and she teaches Martello about real love. The point of the movie is that both Barbara Sugarman and Jon Martello have unrealistic expectations about love based on Barbara's exposure to romantic movies and Jon's sexual desires based on pornography. In one funny scene, Barbara argues that movies are different because “They give awards for movies.” Jon responds, “They give awards for porn, too.”
Jon is a character who doesn't like movies. This is unusual in a Hollywood film, where everyone loves movies. It is also unusual to see a movie that is critical of the way that movies influence our goals in life. This is contrary to the way the movie industry likes us to think about their films, and the products they endorse in them. I'm not saying this is a daring movie, just that it is pretty unusual for a romantic comedy. This is a genre that usually does not produce films that are either thought-provoking or introspective.
This is a very funny film, despite the fact that it does have some serious subjects in it and it is thought-provoking and introspective. This is a well-written film, too. The only soft spot was the way that Esther and Jon get together. That seemed a bit forced, at least at first. Other than that, this is a fine, intelligent, romantic comedy for grown ups. This film rates a B.
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