Friday, November 20, 2015

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Becomes Stylish Actor with Good Taste

I was not impressed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt when I first saw him in Third Rock from the Sun, a loony sitcom about aliens reporting from Earth.

I thought that Kristen Johnson, with those long legs and great timing for wise-ass combacks, would be a force to be reckoned with. I was wrong.

Photo from

It is Gordon-Levitt who shines these days.

Slight of build with a face more cute than handsome, Gordon-Leavitt endows the crazy cyclist messenger in Premium Rush. He inhabits the character with a cocky taste for danger that makes this most mundane job as exciting and dangerous as climbing Mount Everest.

He pushes this ability to capture both sweetness and risk-taking in Brick, a film that reminds me mightily of Dealing or the Berkeley-to-Boston  40-Brick Lost-Bag Blues, an early Michael Crichton effort under a pseudonym with his brother Douglas. In both, students assume noirishly adult lines and lives.

Brick lacks the good-natured humor of Dealing, but the world has changed a great deal since those simpler times of the Seventies. It improves upon it with the subtle cleverness projected by Gordon-Levitt and some catching dialogue.

It is disconcerting when high school students act and talk with the worldliness of characters in a Sam Spade novel. Despite the milieu, it is well done.

Gordon-Levitt pulls it off. Writing of his role in an earlier film, the San Francisco Chronicle noted he "embodies, more than performs, a character's inner life," according to Wikipedia.

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon similarly praised his ability to create a "spell  in subtle gradation," also quoted at Wikipedia.

Gordon-Levitt adds elegance and sophistication to this worldliness in the shadowy (and disturbingly violent) comic book adaptation, Sin City: A Dame to Die For. He plays a supremely self-confident gambler, again pushing against the qualities that he seems to seek out in independent and studio films alike.

I've only seen the trailers from The Walk. It appears that Gordon-Levitt once again inhabits his character, based on Philippe Petit, who actually made the daring performance on a high wire between two New York skyscrapers.

It is interesting to see a young actor emerge into a formidable stylish. I hope I'm not wrong when I predict Gordon-Levitt will pick up a well-deserved Oscar one of these days.

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