After five years of pulling silly faces as Tommy on Third Rock from the Sun it seemed like he would to join the cast-off-second-bananas-from-popular sitcoms” club and next be seen on a rehab or reality show.
Then something interesting happened. He became one of the most remarkable actors of his generation.
Following the sitcom and a self-imposed two year retirement from acting (to attend Columbia) Gordon-Levitt came back with a vengeance, vowing only to do “stuff that I think is good.”
His choices haven’t exactly lit the box office ablaze — that may change with the release of his latest film, 500 Days of Summer — but turns in Mysterious Skin and Manic proved him to be a charismatic, fearless, big-screen presence.
In the modern-day film noir Brick, Gordon-Levitt uncovers an underground drug ring while investigating a murder. He’s a high school loner with a knack for hard-boiled dialogue.
“I’ve got all five senses and I slept last night,” he says to a school yard bully. “That puts me six up against the lot of you.”
He gives an unhinged performance that seemingly channels both Raymond Chandler and The Breakfast Club — totally unique and totally entertaining.
In The Lookout, he went further, deepening his work, creating a person whose character has been shattered.
At the film’s beginning he plays the guy you love to hate: He has a rich father, a beautiful girlfriend, good-looking friends and a fast car.
Life is perfect until a car accident leaves him with severe brain damage. When a charismatic former friend (Matthew Goode) manoeuvres him into taking part in robbing the bank where he works as a janitor, Chris thinks he is taking steps toward controlling his life. He doesn’t realize he’s being manipulated until it is too late. It’s a subtle, well-crafted performance that is always interesting.
Less seen (unless you frequent film festivals) is Uncertainty, just one of the eight films he’s shot in the last two years.
The movie, based on the different directions life can take at the flip of a coin, features improvised dialogue and stellar acting. Keep an eye open for it should it ever earn a theatrical or DVD release.
Somehow, as one writer noted, Gordon-Levitt has “defied the clichéd fates that befall most underage actors when they grow up,” and audiences are all the richer for it.