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'Rush' and 'Don Jon' completely different and entertaining

Published on -10/1/2013, 10:42 AM

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Movie taglines are interesting. Some of them are pure marketing, such as 2005's "House of Wax" starring Paris Hilton, "On May 6th ... see Paris die!" Others are romanticized plot summaries such as 2000's "Erin Brockovich" -- "She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees."

Perhaps my favorites are the taglines that provide a double entendre -- one a quick pun, and the other a glimpse into the film's heart. The tagline for "Rush" is one of the latter, "Everyone's driven by something."

On the surface, "Rush" is about fast cars, pretty girls and the golden age of 1970s Formula One racing. To the credit of the filmmakers, "Rush" isn't about the cars. "Rush" is about the drivers. At its heart, this is a very intimate story about two men whose approaches are as different, and as uncompromising, as black and white. However, it's the shades of gray Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brúhl bring to the screen that brings the narrative to life.

The production design and cinematography for "Rush" are spectacular. I wasn't around for the real 1970s, but everything felt real enough to keep me in the moment and glamorous enough to leave me wanting more. "Rush" is really something of a treat -- it spans the globe and gets to show off some breathtaking locales.

Racing rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda approached the sport of racing about as differently as possible; and yet, they shared a passion and a drive that connected them. A very amusing, and somewhat eerie, comparison can be made to the two movies I am reviewing this week. "Rush" and "Don Jon" are just about as dissimilar of films as I can imagine; however, they are ultimately receiving the same rating from me.

5 of 6 stars

* * *

"Don Jon" tells the story of an unaccomplished, over-confident, sleeveless-shirt-wearing youth who struggles to find love and happiness amidst, and in spite of, a severe addiction to pornography. Like "Rush," this film does not wear its heart on its sleeve.

Written, directed and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "Don Jon" is edgy, unique and, best of all, unapologetic.

Gordon-Levitt doesn't pull any punches, and that's exactly what this film needed. The surface of "Don Jon" is absolutely littered with R-rated pornography clips, irreverent humor and limit-pushing.

Luckily, "Don Jon" isn't ultimately about pornography. "Don Jon" is about perception, connection and the distance between understanding an idea and believing an idea.

Once you get through the raunchy outer layer, this film begs the question, "If we barely understand ourselves, how do we hope to understand someone else?" As noble as that question is, this experience simply isn't for everyone despite the substance that lies beneath the surface -- and that's exactly the point.

5 of 6 stars

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation. james.gerstner@gmail.com

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