Joseph Gordon-Levitt can proudly add another hyphenate to his name. As the writer-director (and star) of Don Jon, Gordon-Levitt shows great promise in both categories. The film takes on the cliched conventions of the modern day rom-com and has fun with them for a solid directorial debut and an accomplished piece of filmmaking.
Gordon-Levitt stars as Jon, a New-York stud who only cares about certain things: His family, his pad, his wheels, his body, his buddies, his church, his girls (ie. getting laid) and his porn.
Yes, his porn.
Jon is your typical modern male (or so he thinks) who views online porn daily. In the photos and videos he surfs, Jon finds greater sexual satisfaction than any of the women he picks up from the clubs. He prefers the fantasy to the messiness and the conditions that come with a human sexual relationship. It’s not until he finds a flesh and blood woman he truly desires that Jon begins to realize that he has a porn addiction.
That flesh and blood woman is Scarlett Johansson as Barbara Sugarman, an old fashioned girl who buys all of the myths perpetuated by Hollywood movies. In many ways, Barbara is as delusional as Jon, preferring the fake romance of a Channing Tatum-Anne Hathaway tearjerker to the realities of an actual human relationship. When she catches him looking at porn, Barbara gains the upper hand. Jon promises never to look at naked women again, and on doing so he begins to examine his views of women and how he interacts with them.
Gordon-Levitt’s smart script examines how our culture (particularly men) objectifies women. It also deals with how the church absolves sins with a random number of “hail Mary’s” and how family (both our blood relatives and friends) influence the choices we make.
Don Jon has outstanding performances, especially the supporting cast. Tony Danza – Gordon-Levitt’s co-star on Angels in the Outfield from 20 years ago – and Glenna Headly are pitch-perfect as Jon’s parents. Julianne Moore, as a mysterious woman Jon befriends, brings warmth and humanity to her important role. Brie Larson spends most of her time onscreen rolling her eyes and texting, but when she delivers a pivotal line in the film it has a lasting impact. And Jeremy Luke and Rob Brown are also excellent as Don’s boys.
Johansson does a fine job as a selfish New York girl who can’t see past her own needs and wants. After several years of lighter fare, this film is a nice reminder of Johansson’s range as an actress. Gordon-Levitt continues in his long string of eclectic roles. From indies to cult films to Hollywood epics and action movies, Gordon-Levitt is proving that there are no boundaries to what he can do.
Behind the scenes, Gordon-Levitt has brought together an impressive lineup of seasoned vets, many of whom have worked on previous films with him. The look and pace of the film is very deliberate, with reoccurring motifs and repeating visual themes throughout the movie.
The Blu-ray has several excellent bonus features, in particular the interviews with the star of the film. Gordon-Levitt comes across as very down to earth and passionate. His enthusiasm for filmmaking and collaboration is exciting, creating anticipation for whatever he chooses to direct next.