Ryan Gosling Vs. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Is this not why you are here? Are you not entertained?
Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are both young actors poised to make it to the A-list if they play their cards right. Both have established indie cred, both are considered thinking person's sex symbols, and both had… less than fantastic beginnings, let's say. Is there room for two at the top of Hollywood? Sure. But let's pit them against one another anyway.
“The kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun did what?” That was the general reaction when Joseph Gordon-Levitt broke out from his sitcom roots with an unexpectedly sober Gregg Araki drama about two victims of molestation. Gordon-Levitt brought a sinewy sexuality to Neal that probably made a lot of people both turned-on and uncomfortable, and rightly so. The obvious parallel between Neal's attraction to older men and the psychic trauma inflicted by the hands of his little-league coach could have seemed ham-handed if JGL hadn't sold Neal's bravado quite so well. And the final scene between Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbett is quietly heartbreaking.
In lesser hands, the unwieldy dialogue of Rian Johnson's teen-noir whodunnit would have landed with Juno levels of unreality. But even if we didn't get every word — they talk really fast in this movie — JGL sells it well. (Plus, this time you didn't feel at all conflicted about finding him sexy.) Brick could have played as ridiculous, or just emptily clever, but Gordon-Levitt's world-weary performance gives it real gravity.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is obviously an attractive guy — but his looks haven't really changed since 10 Things I Hate About You. Yet somehow, people who’d thought he was “cute” for a decade saw him in Inception and called him “hot.” Arthur is a small role, but Gordon-Levitt makes the most of it, with a smoldering cool that seems straight out of the 1950s. If that was the first glimpse into what we’ll see from grown-up Gordon-Levitt, he’s going to have an amazing career.
One of the least interesting films in the terribly spotty genre of gay cinema, Latter Days does no one any favors. I was conflicted about including this, because I don't know if anyone's acting talents — seriously, let's get Meryl to try this out and see — could rise above such an uninteresting script. Joseph's Elder Paul is a fine little Mormon missionary, but this portrayal lacks the credibility he's brought to his other characters.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
No one made it out unscathed with this movie, which actually included a handful of decent actors, and also Channing Tatum. (Naturally, it's getting a sequel.) Gordon-Levitt didn't have as much to do in this film as some of the other damned, but it felt like he simply wasn't giving 100 percent. And I can't blame him; it might have been a fun movie to film, but there is no way he thought it would be any good.
500 Days of Summer
I bet you didn't expect this one, but Gordon-Levitt has been in exactly one good romantic comedy and this is not it. 500 Days is cute enough, I guess, but it's also smug and self-satisfied in a way that made even an all-singing, all-dancing JGL unappealing. Gordon-Levitt's Tom is the worst kind of sad sack in his low moments — the kind you don't want to comfort so much as give a good swift kick in the shins.
While both men are exceptionally talented, Gosling has the jump on Gordon-Levitt in two ways: one, he picks his projects better, so even his duds aren't total disasters. Two, he's knocked it out of the park in an acting-with-a-capital-A way at least three times — JGL has only done that once, in Mysterious Skin. In the end, though, they're both great actors doing above-average work, so we all win.