BEFORE: Scarlett Johansson carries over from "Hail, Caesar!" (and so does one other actor) - with such a large cast, I probably could have gone in any of a dozen directions next, but I've already established the path that gets me to Memorial Day and then to mid-June, and it goes through four movies with Joseph-Gordon Levitt. If I had known so many of his films would fall on to my list, then I might have not watched "The Walk" last year - but in the end, I needed that to link to "The Night Before" at Christmastime, so the film came in handy. Now another backlog of his films has built up - that's just how it goes with these actors, I've seen it happen with Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt and countless others. Each time I clear someone like that off the board, they go out and make more movies and I'm forced to circle back. Hey, that's what actors do, and I just have to deal with this little runs as best as I can.
I had to supplement the chain a bit to get me to the end of May, and I did so by adding two Academy Award screeners for films from 2016 that aren't on cable yet, and buying one DVD from Amazon, for a film that for some reason is not streaming on Amazon, iTunes or Netflix. More about that next week - but at least the shipment from Amazon arrived yesterday, so the chain is solid.
AFTER: I'm kind of split on this one, because I'm not sold on the idea that porn is as destructive as this film suggests. I mean, it exists, we all have unprecedented access to it thanks to the internet, and there's no doubt that it affects people's lives and relationships, but I don't think it's such a black-and-white issue. I don't think the movie's sold on that idea either, but still it strongly suggests it.
After all, Jon's girlfriend watches a lot of Hollywood romance films, and forces him to watch them too, and don't those ALSO create a set of unrealistic expectations about love and relationships? How many women have been disappointed over the years that their partners aren't as romantic as the ones they see on the screen? But do men rise up and condemn the fictional roles for men, because they're always buying their women flowers and taking them out for fancy dinners, getting down on one knee and proposing after a week of dating convinces them that they've finally found the ONE woman they want to spend the rest of their lives with?
It's kind of the same way with porn actresses - they appear on-screen doing things that women at home can't or won't do in order to please their partners. Both are there to act as fantasy personas, to let the people at home live vicariously through the magic of video, so we can imagine ourselves having those experiences for a brief time. But a woman catching her man watching porn one time and making an issue out of it, or breaking up with her man because of his browser history, those seem like extreme reactions. I'm sure they may have happened to some people (especially if the browser history reveals a fascination for violence or pedophilia, for example) but I don't think it's necessarily par for the course.
When I was in film school, and this is back in the late 1980's, if a female film student didn't like a film, she might say, "Oh, well this is just masturbation..." meaning that this film had no redeeming value whatsoever, or that it was pointless, or that it featured a director who was just glorifying himself. But I never understood this, because by doing this, she was equating something BAD (a film she didn't like) with something else that was equivalently bad, masturbation, and for me, at that time, she was inadvertently making fun of my lifestyle. I thought, "Wait, you're saying that masturbation is a BAD thing?" As Woody Allen once cracked in "Hannah and Her Sisters": "So, now you're going to start knocking my hobbies?" (He also said, "Don't knock masturbation. It's sex with someone you love.")
NITPICK POINT: Why, oh why, in movies is the process always: 1) jack off 2) grab some tissues. This would be very problematic, for obvious reasons that I don't have to describe here. For God's sake, and to keep the furniture clean, filmmakers, please note, the correct procedure is: 1) grab some tissues and THEN 2) proceed. This is especially egregious because this film took pot-shots at porn for not being an accurate representation of sex, and then they depict the male masturbation process in the wrong (and ickiest) possible order. This is made even worse by depicting the main character as a bit of a neat freak, someone who appreciates clean sheets and a clean room - so you'd expect that he would know to grab the tissues in advance.
There are some nice touches here, like you might notice that Jon works out by himself in the gym, and then later in the film, graduates to playing basketball with other people, this is a great parallel symbolism to his sexual history, as he learns to have better relationships and work as part of a team. But there are plenty of other pieces that go nowhere, like showing him with road rage again and again, which really adds nothing positive to his character. Meanwhile, he's supposedly working in the "service industry" as a - waiter? bartender? - but that's all a bit unclear because we never see him at work. This affects the school scenes, too, because we're not sure why he's going to school, what he's studying, and what that might have to do with his career.
Also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (last seen in "The Night Before"), Julianne Moore (last seen in "Still Alice"), Tony Danza (last seen in "Dear God"), Glenne Headly (last seen in "The Purple Rose of Cairo"), Brie Larson (last seen in "Trainwreck"), Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke, Paul Ben-Victor (last seen in "Get Hard"), Italia Ricci, Lindsey Broad, with cameos from Anne Hathaway (last seen in "Ella Enchanted"), Channing Tatum (also carrying over from "Hail, Caesar!"), Cuba Gooding Jr. (last seen in "The Butler") and porn actors Tori Black, Devon, Bree Olson, Mia Markova, Alexis Texas.
RATING: 4 out of 10 money shots