Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes a remarkably polished directorial debut with romantic-comedy 'Don Jon', also starring as the titular Jon – a man of simple pleasures whose primary concerns in life include his body, his pad, his car, his friends, his girls and (most importantly) his porn. When he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), however – a ‘solid dime’ – he’s forced to change his ways, and make a choice between love and, er, rigorous self-love.
Playing firmly against type, Gordon-Levitt and Johansson both put in hilarious performances, supported by an excellent cast that includes Julianne Moore as Jon’s unlikely confidante. Snappily paced and packed with laugh-out-loud one-liners, 'Don Jon' finds the ideal balance between crude humour and emotional warmth, making this a rom-com with more than the usual amount of brains and heart. (LJ-G)
'Inside Llewyn Davis'
The Coen Brothers’ ode to folk music in the 1960s, 'Inside Llewyn Davis' is a gloomy wintry tale of unfulfilled potential. Llewyn (Oscar Issac) is worn out trying to get a record deal. Broke and couch-surfing, he is suffering quietly since the death of his former singing partner, Mike. Finding new nadirs, a married friend and fellow young artist, Jean (Carey Mulligan), has an unwanted pregnancy and is unable to tell whether it is Llewyn’s or husband Jim’s (Justin Timberlake).
It is clear the film is made with a lot of love and understanding of the pre-Dylan nascent music scene. Marcus Mumford was recruited as a helping hand in the expansive musical direction. Nevertheless it doesn’t prevent 'Inside Llewyn Davis' from dragging its heels. The comedy is typically Coen Brothers, punctuated with oddballs, dodgy haircuts, wordy dialogues and plenty of farce. However, don’t expect the jokes to land as well as in 'Burn After Reading' or 'Fargo' Despite a great sidetrack road trip story with John Goodman, the lead cast predominantly hit bum notes in their roles.
My recommendation instead is to dig out a copy of the Coen Brothers’ 'Barton Fink', a cracking film that swept clean at Cannes in 1991, based within the same thematic spheres as 'Inside Llewyn Davis'. (RK)
'Only Lovers Left Alive'
The casting could hardly be more appropriate in this unconventional vampire romance-drama, starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as a pair of centuries-old lovers struggling to adapt to an increasingly polluted modern world.
Something of an anti-'Twilight', 'Only Lovers Left Alive' takes a more measured, adult approach to the vampire mythos – there’s little in the way of bloodthirsty action, with conflict taking the form of Mia Wasikowska’s impish Ava, a disruptive ripple in the lovers’ otherwise placid lives.
Though perhaps a little lacking in excitement, this languid tale makes up for this with its witty flourishes and wry humour, with John Hurt providing much amusement as playwright Marlowe. Fans of traditional vampire fare may be left wishing for a bit more bite, however. (LJ-G)
For more info and to purchase tickets to the remaining screenings, visit bfi.org.uk/lff.