God’s Pocket and Directorial Debuts

God's Pocket

This week sees the release of John Slattery’s directorial debut God’s Pocket. Slattery is better known for his on-screen skills, notably in television’s Mad Men, as well as roles in The Adjustment Bureau and Iron Man 2. John Slattery’s debut is the latest in a long line of actors who have stepped behind the camera following an already successful on-screen career. Here I take a look at previous directorial debuts…

Robert De Niro

After two decades and numerous acolades for his acting skills, Robert De Niro turned director in 1993 with A Bronx Tale. Critically successful if not a commercial smash, A Bronx Tale saw De Niro taking cues from his long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese in terms of themes and style. De Niro’s only other directing credit is The Good Shepherd (2006).

Ben Affleck

After starring in numerous high-profile movies and winning an Oscar for his writing, Ben Affleck’s directorial debut arrived in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone. The film was well-received, although Affleck’s directing skills may have flown under the radar in the UK at that time as the film was not released due to similarities to a high profile case. However if anyone was in doubt of Ben Affleck’s directing abilities, he displayed them ably in 2010’s The Town and 2012’s Argo, for which he was awarded the Best Director Oscar.

Drew Barrymore

Whip It

Former child star and Hollywood stalwart Drew Barrymore directed a documentary for television in 2004. However it was her feature debut Whip It in 2009 which brought her to the attention of critics and audiences as a director. Since then, Barrymore has only stretched her directing muscles with a Best Coast music video, featuring an array of young Hollywood talent.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Another former child actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had reinvigorated his acting career with roles in 500 Days of Summer and Inception before turning his attention to directing. With a number of shorts under his belt, Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut came in 2013 with Don Jon, which he also wrote. Starring in the title role, Gordon-Levitt displayed a promising talent as filmmaker.

God’s Pocket is out in UK cinemas on 8th August 2014.

Film Review: Don Jon

Don Jon

Although it is tonally uneven, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon is an entertaining film.

New Jersey guy Jon (known as ‘Don Jon’ to his friends) cares about his body, pad, family, friends, and girls. He also has a habit of watching online porn. When he falls for a beautiful girl, it is unclear how he will balance the two…

For much of Don Jon, the tone is comedic. The central character is a young, rather stereotypical heterosexual man, and the audience is invited to laugh both with and at him. The final third of the film plays on what has come before to a certain extent, and is far more introspective than what has come before.

Don Jon is something of a coming of age story wrapped up in a comedy about a porn addict. There may be an issue with the way in which the film is being sold; those expecting an out and out comedy may feel dissatisfied with Don Jon.

The message that writer-director and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers is quite clear. There is no more nuance than what is presented. In some ways, Gordon-Levitt is skewing a proportion of the audience who the film will appeal to. The concurrent themes of family and religion are played out in an overt manner; some subtlety here would have been welcome.

Gordon-Levitt’s direction is good; there are some distinctive touches in Don Jon. The cinema scene is particularly amusing. The soundtrack feels fitting. Gordon-Levitt and Julianne Moore deliver decent performances. Scarlett Johansson amuses.

Don Jon shows some promise for Joseph Gordon-Levitt; the next project he takes on will perhaps say more about his direction as a filmmaker.

Don Jon is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.