Saturday, 26 April 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2009: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer

Joseph Gordon-Levitt did not receive Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Tom Hansen in 500 Days of Summer.

500 Days of Summer is about the highs and lows of a relationship between two young adults. The first time I watched it I thought it was fine enough, on re-watch though it's style wore very thin very quickly for me.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the male lead in Tom Hansen an aspiring architect, obviously, who works at a greeting card company. Tom is technically speaking a hopeless romantic in that he is a fervent believer in true love and intends to find it in his crush who works at the same company Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who shares no such beliefs with Tom and makes that rather clear very early on to him. The film jumps back and forth in the timeline sometimes to the beginning of their relationship which is straight out of a romantic movie with certain flamboyant acts. Many other scenes depict the end of the relationship with Summer simply insisting that they should only be friends with Tom dreading this idea. We then get various quirky stylistic flourishes from the direction which bridge the various scenes together.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt whole performance is one of a particular style as well as often he must fit in these various flourishes of the director Marc Webb which includes even a musical number after Tom has consummated the relationship. There are mostly two halves to the performance particularly early on. On one side there is the Tom pursuing Summer and starting the relationship with her. On this side Gordon-Levitt is fairly charming enough and his enthusiasm in these scenes are endearing enough. Also in these screes are some wacky moments which well they are indeed there with Gordon-Levitt needing to be awkwardly hilarious. I did not find him awkwardly hilarious, but he is more than entirely fine in these scenes as well. On the other side set in the future though Tom is quite the opposite.

In the scenes set later Tom is basically in a set state of depression mixed with a hatred both due to Summer's treatment of him. The film and Gordon-Levitt don't mind really saying that Tom is a bit of a self-absorbed jerk in this regard and this is the way he plays it. I imagine though it is also meant to be fairly comedic in nature as Tom is unable to be reasoned with in his state. Gordon-Levitt certainly gets the points across as he should and the fairly simple way of playing does make sense for the character as Tom is suppose to be so set on his ideas of romance that anything else causes him to basically shut down. Anyway though again I did not find the performance particularly hilarious, and although I think he got the point of Tom across well enough it still did not make his character especially compelling or interesting to watch.

After a certain point the film becomes a bit more regulated as does Gordon-Levitt performance as he basically shows Tom having learned his lesson therefore basically taking things to less of an extreme. In turn he does the same with his performance no longer being so enthusiastic in the happy moments but not nearly as depressed and angry in the bad moments. Tom basically just starts to deal with things like a man who is more assured when it comes to facing things realistically. Gordon-Levitt is once again completely solid in these scenes which are certainly quieter but probably more natural in style. He once again fulfills the need of the character's change in attitude and is believable, even though again he never made to get caught up too much, or frankly even care that much about Tom's problems.

This whole performance came off as just fine to me in basically every way in that there were not any scenes where I hated his performance but he failed to ever impress me either. This isn't even a standard romantic lead turn as Tom is suppose to be slightly insufferable and Gordon-Levitt shows that well enough just like how he does pretty much everything well enough. He is charming enough, he has enough energy in the role, he has enough passion when he needs it, and he is always clearly trying more than enough. Enough I suppose means that I would describe this as a good performance, and I'll call it a good performance, but I won't call it a great one or one that made me care any more about the film. Now it is time for me to go batten down the hatches.

39 comments:

luke higham said...

Louis: What was your rating & thoughts on Deschanel.

luke higham said...

Louis: Also what would you consider to be Levitt's Best performance, Rating Included

Michael McCarthy said...

Robert won't like this too much...I'd probably give him a 4. I'm really excited for Rockwell's and Mortensen's reviews!

Matt Mustin said...

I thought he was good enough. He's done better.

Kevin said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Levitt's performance in Don Jon, Looper and Premium Rush?

Also, I suggest checking out his performance in Brick to add to your 2005 Best Actor list

Anonymous said...

Definitely check out 50/50. He's not the greatest actor of his generation by any stretch of the imagination, but as a cancer patient he really nailed both the comic and tragic elements of the film.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

MURDER...
again.

mcofra7 said...

I would suggest seeing him in Mysterious Skin.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I recommend his performances in Brick and The Lookout.

RatedRStar said...

I don't know what it is about Levitt, I always feel he could do, better, in his performances, I always feel he gives solid performances in most films but never anything that becomes truly great or particularly memorable.

RatedRStar said...

I find he picks usually very good films, but, there's something missing lol, I am trying to think what it is lol.

Anonymous said...

Just realised 1965 Best Supporting Actor is empty. Any chance we'll get to see a review of Steiger, Werner etc. in the near future?

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Louis's going back to the 60s after this, so he may finish off 65' first before covering one of the 4 remaining years in the decade.

varun neermul said...

Louis, rating and thoughts on Jim Carrey in Enternal Sunshine Of The Spotless mind.

Matt Mustin said...

varun: Why don't you wait to see if he reviews him?

luke higham said...

Carrey's an absolute certainty for '04 Lead, alongside Bruno Ganz in Downfall. Other possibilities include Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside, Christian Bale in The Machinist and Paul Giamatti in Sideways. Will Ferrell is also a request for his performance in Anchorman, Although I could see him as a Bonus Review, If Louis is willing.

Louis: Have you seen The Passion of the Christ, If so, what were your thoughts on it, as well as Caviezel's Performance with rating included.


Michael Patison said...

Luke: I believe Bardem was requested long ago (like quite some time before I remember you ever posting). I could definitely see Ferrell getting a bonus review (and hope he does).

Also, I don't see why JGL wouldn't be in the running for a review in 2004 for Mysterious Skin.

Some others not yet mentioned might be Kevin Spacey in Beyond the Sea, Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal in The Motorcycle Diaries, and Choi Min-sik in Springtime. I'd love to see one for Daniel Craig in Layer Cake, but I know that's pretty much out of the question.

Michael Patison said...

RatedRStar: I forgot to mention that I feel essentially exactly the same way about watching a JGL performance (I haven't seen The Lookout or Mysterious Skin or even this one), but I generally feel like he never becomes truly great. He's rarely, if ever, bad, but he routinely fails to climb above the level of "very good" to greatness and excellence.

As for the similar quality his films seem to suffer, I'd probably say that they fail to feel "important," which is a word I hate throwing around, but which I feel fits. Some of them just are that (10 Things I Hate About You, though I think it's really charming and that Allison Janney's scene or two completely steals it). Others, namely 50/50 as it's really the only one that falls into this category for me, should be "important" and are quite good, but fail to really take off because of the pieces around JGL. 50/50 suffered because the writing failed to make JGL's mother and psychiatrist complex enough and because, though the JGL-Rogen relationship was certainly well-written, Rogen's character could have been much better and possibly even made the film brilliant if he'd been played by somebody different and more dramatically capable, Andrew Garfield for instance (though I think Heath Ledger, if he'd been alive, would've been awesome). I think this also says that JGL isn't talented enough to elevate something (or others) to greatness with his own work, and may even get bogged down by lesser work around him.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Fine, I'll play devil's advocate and say he's a brilliant actor. The reason I like him so much in this movie is the massive, enormous amount of subtext the movie has concerning his character. To me it's more than entertaining (which he certainly is), he's finding a more complex character. Tom is an unreliable narrator. He believes his own delusions of what the relationship was like. He think the hints he gives here are brilliant. I admit I tend to look for "smaller" things when I analyze a performance, so it probably seems inconsequential to most.

Matt Mustin said...

I think Levitt's a great actor too, and I liked him here (I'd probably give him a 4) but I think he's done better elsewhere, particularly in 50/50 and The Lookout.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: I'd probably give Deschanel only a 2.5 despite all her quirkiness, which I found neither funny or endearing, I thought her performance was just fairly dull.

I'd probably say out of his performances that I have seen, haven't seen Brick, Mysterious Skin, or 50/50, would be the Lookout which I would probably give him a four for.

In terms of Passion of the Christ I frankly prefer Jesus Christ Superstar when it comes to telling the death of Christ. I felt the grit of the violence kind of overwhelmed the emotions and the message. Caviezel was fine though, I'm not sure what I would give him I the moment.

Kevin:

Don Jon - 2.5(A performance purposefully pretty absurd so it's fine that he was a bit much, but I just never found him that funny and never made me interested in Don Jon's particular problems)

Looper - 3.5 (Solid enough again and like 500 Days of Summer he hits the right points in terms of his character's addiction, conflict and even the Bruce Willis mannerisms. I did find him overshadowed by the real deal in the film thought)

Premium Rush - 2.5(He's not bad really, but he failed to do something very important in action movies terms, which is wanting the hero to succeed. I'm afraid I was kinda hoping Michael Shannon would win.)

Anonymous:

Well I will be getting to 65 supporting sometime.

Varun Neermul:

He's likely to be reviewed for 04.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what's your rating and thoughts on Michael Shannon in Premium Rush.

varun neermul said...

Louis after reading your review of Jhon Travolta in Saturday Night Fever it made me feel like it was one of your favorite performances. Where would you place it on the overall?

luke higham said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on Christian Bale as an Actor.

varun neermul said...

Louis,Your thoughts and rating of Adam Sandler in Funny People.

luke higham said...

Louis: your ratings & thoughts for Dirk Bogarde in Death in Venice & Clint Eastwood in the Beguiled.

Anonymous said...

What would be your thoughts/ratings on Judi Dench in Philomena? I recall a while ago when you ranked the actresses that you didn't see her, but I'm guessing you have by now because you finished 2013's Alternate ranking. Thanks!

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I remember it being a 4.5 for Dench.

mcofra7 said...

Louis: thoughts on Ed Harris in Snowpiercer.

luke higham said...

Ed Harris - 4.5(A great one scene wonder. Harris plays the part with an evil delight yet a great deal of charisma fitting for a man in his position. There is a huge buildup to his appearance and Harris does not disappoint)

mcofra7 said...

Thanks.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: Shannon - 4(His performance is not his most subtle but I think it worked for the film since he was one of the few factors that got me involved with the film. He brought the menace well just being entertaining)

Varun: You can see my placement of him in the results post for lead 2013.

Sandler - 2.5(Maybe a 3 if I re-watched the film, but I'm never going to do that since I did not care for film at all. I did not find him particularly funny, but that was not the point obviously. His dramatic moments though were fine, even though I felt the whole film undercut them)

Luke: I perhaps should have included Bale on the British/Irish top ten as I honestly like most of his performances and find he's usually solid to very good if not great.

Bogarde - 4.5(I'm not quite in love with this performance as apparently many, but he's very good and appropriately haunting)

Eastwood - 4.5(Honestly I'm tempted to go higher with him as it's fascinating to see him play such a flawed character. It's quite the change of pace for him yet he pulls off the character with the appropriate mix of sleaze and charm)

Anonymous:

Yes she would be a 4.5. I thought she did particularly well in that role since she did not on her usual Dench isms, instead giving a particularly natural and tender performance.

luke higham said...

Louis: will the review be coming either today or tomorrow.

Louis Morgan said...

Probably tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

What does everyone think about the new Star Wars cast? Excited about Issac, Boyega, Von Sydow and especially Gleeson :)

varun neermul said...

Lois, Ratings and thoughts on the cast of Twilight

luke higham said...

I hope Isaac gets to play a likeable character this time, although I'm glad he's getting more mainstream work. I'm really happy with the inclusions of Sydow, who should probably play the Grand Jedi Master or something akin to that and Andy Serkis, Who I think will probably play an alien bounty hunter. Gleeson has been solid, from where I've seen and Boyega was good in Attack the Block. So overall there's no real stinkers to think of, although my expectations are a bit skeptical at the moment.

Louis Morgan said...

I've never seen Twilight, nor will I by my own will.

varun neermul said...

You my friend are lucky