Author: Jack Greenbaum
This past year there were several actors who had breakout performances that put them on the map of Hollywood stardom with the potential to be the next George, Julia or Leo – Joseph Gordon-Levitt was one of those stars.
However, while he achieved widespread success with “(500) Days of Summer,” and seems to have a fruitful Hollywood career ahead of him with roles in such high-profile films as next summer’s “Inception,” Gordon-Levitt has actually been on-set more than most people realize.
Gordon-Levitt was previously recognized for his work in the late 90s with “3rd Rock from the Sun” and “10 Things I Hate About You.” After this summer, though, he has received major accolades and fame from “(500) Days of Summer.”
His portrayal of Tom Hansen, the hopelessly romantic idealist, enabled him to connect with audiences nationwide. In the film, he displayed his comedic abilities, dance talents and emotional range. Yet, the majority of Gordon-Levitt’s career remains unknown to most audiences.
Gordon-Levitt actually had an extremely well-received independent film stint throughout most of the first decade of this millennium. That’s why this week, I thought I’d take a look at a lesser-known, highly-regarded Gordon-Levitt indie film called “Brick.”
This 2005 movie from writer/director Rian Johnson takes the stylish, exciting film noir genre and brings it into a mysterious and convoluted setting: high school.Gordon-Levitt plays Brendan Frye, a teenage loner, looking for answers regarding the sudden disappearance of his ex-girlfriend, Emily.
As he makes his way through the various cliques of the high school social scene, he realizes the complex web that surrounds Emily’s vanishing act.
He encounters many illustrious characters with names like Tug, the Pin and his only confidante, Brain, as he digs deeper to find answers. This is a tale of love, drugs, corruption, determination and secrets that does not disappoint.
Unlike the protagonists of the noir films from the 40s and 50s, like “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep,” Brendan is a more reserved detective, but he has the capacity to show great strength when the opportunity presents itself.
He also has a subtle brilliance for piecing together clues and knowing who to trust in the shady world of high school. He follows in the footsteps of a long line of unassuming investigators, from the likes of Chevy Chase’s Fletch (from “Fletch”) to Robert Downey Jr.’s Harry Lockhart (from “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”).
A key factor of “Brick”‘s magnificence is that it capitalizes on the typical high school environment of struggles with maturity and increased societal pressures,. These interactions between students establish a labyrinthine puzzle that Brendan must solve.
Brendan’s abilities to piece together the case are based on his efforts to carefully navigate all the school’s cliques appropriately, but his strongest weapon is the one that supercedes all high school social capital: acting apathetic to the popularity hierarchy.
The visual style of “Brick” is also quite striking. Johnson’s usage of muted colors give the modern film a wonderfully original noir style of its own.
The soundtrack is equally impressive. Scored by Nathan Johnson, it sets an eerie tone that enables the audience to better comprehend the atmosphere.
In terms of Gordon-Levitt’s performance, the contrast between Tom Hansen in “(500) Days of Summer” and Brendan Frye in “Brick” demonstrates Gordon-Levitt’s talent of embodying a wide variety of roles with rich emotional spectrum.
An exceptional and underrated cinematic treat, “Brick” is a film that will be sure to satisfy. I recommend several viewings of the film to comprehensively understand all the elements of the serpentine plot.
So, for those of you excited to see Gordon-Levitt on the red carpet this awards season or in July’s “Inception,” take a look back at this gem of a movie. “Brick” showcases Gordon-Levitt’s acting talent and contextualizes the cinematic progress he has shown over his young, but deservedly acclaimed career.
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