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Spotlight on…Joseph Gordon Levitt August 6, 2009

Posted by ashiah in Film.
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No music post! In fact, I’m just gonna stop mentioning it. Anyway, I saw 500 Days of Summer this weekend and freakin’ loved it. I won’t bore you with a review. In fact, here’s my review: Go see it.

Anyway, what I really want to write about is underrated actor Joseph Gordon Levitt who’s one of the few young actors today who’s consistently good at picking interesting roles. Levitt is absolutely charming in “500 Days…” as Tom, a greeting card writer who believes in love, destiny, long walks on the beach and other ooey gooey love stuff. So of course he falls in love with a girl who believes in the complete opposite, and shockingly their relationship does not turn out well.

Levitt, who’s best known for starring in the sitcom Third Rock from the Sun (and so is no stranger to impeccable comic timing), is delightful in light-hearted scenes but can easily switch it up for moodier moments. In fact, based on his past recent films it can be easy to forget he did mostly comedic roles when he was younger up until Mysterious Skin. In fact, “Mysterious Skin” was the first film where Levitt stepped up and became a bona fide actOR. Unfortunately it seems like the rest of the world is just now taking notice. Let’s look back at some of Levitt’s amazing roles — proof that he’s cementing himself as one of today’s best actors:

Mysterious Skin (2004)
This is Levitt’s first serious role after “3rd Rock from the Sun” (unless you count Manic, which I don’t since I still haven’t seen it yet). The film, about a gay teen hustler dealing with the affects of child abuse, was a jarring change from light-hearted teen comedies (10 Things I Hate About You) and sitcoms (Roseanne) he was known for. After seeing the film, I officially knew he was someone I needed to keep my eye on. Levitt has this way about acting that comes across as “dry.” His characters seem aloof, detached and bored even. But they always having something deeper inside them that’s causing them to close themselves up.

Brick (2005)
Even though “Mysterious Skin” caught my attention, Brick is what caught others, and by “others” I mean indie film nerds. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. In “Brick,” Levitt plays Brandon, a high schooler who has to uncover the mystery of his girlfriend’s death. The whole film was a modern spin on classic noir films, and Levitt’s portrayl of Brandon as a determined wannabe detective has just the right amount of dry charm and emotional flaws. He’s able to do an amazing balancing act between the two.

Havoc (2005)
Oh, boy. Now this was a piece of crap. But hey, every actors gets their tomato splat every now and then. The film, which is best known for Anne Hathaway‘s nude scenes, is about a bunch of naive white middle class high schoolers who try to be “black,” aka fly gangsta pimps. They then get a rude awakening when some real Latino gangs start injecting some real-world into their make believe one. I actually like to pretend this movie was never made. I’m sure Levitt does, too.

The Lookout (2007)
This overlooked gem is about a young guy suffering from memory loss. He’s persuaded to be the lookout at a bank robbery by a group of charming peers who use him and take advantage of his mental condition. Besides the somewhat major plot hole (how is someone with short term memory loss allowed to drive a car?) the film is an incredibly moving character study that showed Levitt stretching further from “dry” characters and showing a bit more vulnerability.

Stop-Loss (2008)
I actually wrote a review about this here. Levitt plays just a supporting character, but he does a good job at playing a young, reckless soldier serving in the Iraq war and dealing with post-partum depression. Not a stand out film, but an interesting film to watch on a boring Sunday afternoon if you’re in the mood to debate politics afterward.

After “Stop-Loss,” Levitt started taking more mainstream roles. I haven’t seen a lot of them (I don’t think most of them have been released yet), but maybe this means there’s about to be an explosion of Levitt-mania. Can you imagine that? Vanity Fair kicking Shia Lebeouf aside and declaring Levitt the new Tom Hanks? It definitely appears that way. But Levitt’s success and mainstream recognition has been long coming. Let’s just hope the attention comes from “500 Days” and not G.I. Joe.