Joseph Gordon-Levitt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Neil McCormick in Mysterious Skin.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in kind of his I'm an adult actor shift, plays one of the young men, Neil, who we find had been sexually abused as a child by his little league coach. This is along with another boy Brian (Brady Corbet), but the two end up being changed by the act in different ways. Brian represses the memory of his abuse to the point that he believes his lost time is the result of alien abduction, Neil on the other hand clearly remembers being raped, and embraces it himself in a strange way by almost viewing the coach as a mentor of sorts. This goes so far as Neil, as a boy, also personally abused Brian at a separate time. Gordon-Levitt for much of the film plays Neil as someone who is ensured in who he is. There is an innate confidence that Gordon-Levitt brings that alludes to the way Neil's mind works, Gordon-Levitt presents him as someone who seems wholly comfortable with his sexuality and himself. In narration, which Gordon-Levitt gives just a pinch of southwest twang, Gordon-Levitt delivers the story of Neil's abuse not as a horror story rather as a learning experience.
Neil ends up becoming a male prostitute working for mainly older men. Gordon-Levitt plays these scenes in an interesting way that alludes to Neil's mental state that stems from his abuse as a child. That is there is a bizarre conviction in him as he goes about going with the men, and it less as though he is receiving any real pleasure from it rather it is though Neil is performing a specific service he's good at. In the scenes where he does this still at his old home, Gordon-Levitt realizes Neil's behavior as a learned trait, and effectively shows the bizarre state of mind created by his childhood. Not every scene is selling his body though as we see a few scenes where Neil interacts with mother and his two close friends. Unlike his counterpart Brain who is withdrawn, Gordon-Levitt brings more than just a bit of flamboyance to the young man on the outer surface of Neil as he seems to enjoy his life, even carrying this certain pride whenever he speaks about his "accomplishments" as a prostitute.
Eventually Neil leaves his hometown to venture out into New York where he still works as a prostitute. The film follows him as he goes on a few different jobs. Gordon-Levitt at first keeps the similair blasé attitude. The nature of the jobs slowly become more extreme from one man with Aids seeking any touch, to eventually a violent man who severely beats Neil. As the jobs reveal damaged men, Neil in turn starts to realize the way he has been broken by his past. I have to say these scene left me cold. It isn't that Gordon-Levitt is bad, in fact I'd say gets across the general idea of Neil slowly uncovering his own damaged nature, but the scenes lacked the emotional power I would have expected them to. The film culminates as Neil and Brian meet as adults and Neil finally tells Brian what happened to them as children. I have to admit I Brady Corbet's portrayal of Brian left the stronger impression in terms of that scene and the overall film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives good work here, it technically meets the needs of the character, but as often is the case for Gordon-Levitt for me, it doesn't quite take the next step into a truly resonate performance. This is a case though where I can perhaps see why some take to this performance so strongly even if I cannot myself.