50/50, one of our favorite films of 2011, hits DVD today, so it is our duty — and our pleasure — to encourage you to buy it or rent it or stream it or whatever you do to put movies into your eye-holes. There’s plenty of reasons to like the movie (the story’s real life inspiration, the roguish charm of Seth Rogen’s Kyle, the cautiously sweet romantic subplot), but we’re betting that the main reason it plays so well is because of star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In today’s hyper-divisive celebrity culture, it’s impossible to find a star that everyone can agree on, and rare to find even a majority consensus, but there don’t seem to be all that many people out there who don’t like JGL. (Either that, or they’re keeping it quiet.) We propose five reasons why after the jump.
1. We’ve watched him grow up.
Gordon-Levitt started doing commercials as a child, and appeared on Family Ties at age 7. As a pre-teen, he appeared in films like Beethoven, A River Runs Through It, and Angels in the Outfield; he was a mere 15 when he was cast on Third Rock from the Sun, where he did six seasons and became a young man before our very eyes. Though the entertainment industry chews up child actors and spits them out on a regular basis, we do like it when someone we’ve seen mature from a precocious tyke to a talented grown-up makes a go of it. There may be three or four Corey Feldmans and Haley Joel Osments for every JGL or Drew Barrymore, but we feel like we know the ones that make it a little better, and are proud of them for doing so. And, like Barrymore, it’s not just about being a cute kid, it’s also about making some smart choices…
2. He appears to have impeccable taste.
Look, no one bats 1000, and Gordon-Levitt has a couple of turkeys on his CV; he did, after all, do that GI Joe movie, and while we haven’t seen his upcoming Premium Rush, it’s not looking promising. But he’s got an uncommonly disproportionate hit-to-miss ratio. Even while doing teen movies on Third Rock hiatuses, his required rom-com was the unexpectedly smart and funny 10 Things I Hate About You, and he learned horror movie acting from the queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, in the goofy but fun Hallowen: H20. Then things started getting interesting: he did a child-actor image-busting turn as a gay hustler in Mysterious Skin, followed that with a beautifully modulated performance in Rian Johnson’s high school take on film noir, Brick, and fronted Scott Frank’s woefully underseen The Lookout. (500) Days of Summer has grown into a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but we loved it; ditto his sharp supporting work in Inception. Even his films that don’t quite work (like Hesher) are at least interesting.
3. The “nice guy” factor.
True story: one of your film editor’s classmates ran into Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or “Joe,” as he prefers to be called, at a bar in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival — at a laid-back, townie-type bar, mind you, not one of those fancy Sundance party venues. According to her, he is utterly delightful! Really nice and down to earth and all of that, and entirely free of an entourage even. But don’t take my word for it — watch or listen to just about any interview with “Joe,” where he comes off as absolutely charming, and much less interested in talking about himself than talking about his…
4. Side projects!
In 2004, Gordon-Levitt started a website called hitRECord, an online collaborative showcase for short films, music, stories, and other media which shares its profits with the contributing artists. It started with six videos; now it has over 10,000 participants, and Gordon-Levitt reportedly oversees the site himself from a bank of computers in his home studio. Yes, home studio — he’s also an amateur musician, which led to…
It’s the video that everyone was posting on their Facebook wall in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and we found the true power of JGL’s charisma: it was strong enough to even overpower our growing case of Zooey Deschanel Fatigue™. This is just adorable stuff.
That’s why we like Mr. Gordon-Levitt. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.