Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his directorial debut with Don Jon; now out in theaters today. Is this journey into the world of one man's addiction to pornography a compelling experience or is it a disappointment? Jeffrey Harris checks in with his official review.
Directed By: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Written By: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Runtime: 90 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated R
Jon Martello - Joseph Gordon-Levitt Barbara Sugarman - Scarlett Johansson Esther - Julianne Moore Jon Martello, Sr. - Tony Danza Angela Martello - Glenne Headly Monica Martello - Brie Larson Bobby - Rob Brown Danny - Jeremy Luke Gina - Italia Ricci Lauren - Lindsey Broad
With Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, makes his feature writing and directing debut in an earnest exploration of porn addiction. Gordon-Levitt stars in his own film as Jon Martello, an Italian-American and New Jersey native. Jon is a borderline oaf, but heís a total ladiesí man. As a working bartender, he spends most of his time hanging out at the bar scene with his buddies Danny (Luke) and Bobby (Brown), scanning for his next conquest. When heís not shredding at the gym, he does his best to have dinner with his overtly Italian parents (played with much spirit by Tony Danza and Glenne Headly) and he goes to Mass every Sunday to confess his sins. Oh and his major hobby is watching porn to get his rocks off.
Jonís case of porn addiction has gotten to a point where real sex doesnít interest him as much. He likes sex with women, but thereís something about porn that constantly draws him in that he cannot escape. Things get serious though when he meets a total ď10Ē in Barbara (Johansson). Jon wants it so bad heís even willing to play the long game for her, taking her out and catering to all her needs. It doesnít take a genius to figure out that Barbara is more than a little manipulative as well as a control freak. While Jon tries to keep his hobby under wraps from Barbara, itís hard for him to truly open up to her. In fact, the thought of knowing her boyfriend likes to clean his own house is unsexy to her and freaks her out immensely.
Jon soon starts attending night classes and meets an older classmate in Esther (Moore). Esther casually discovers Jonís porn issue and laughs it off. Though itís eventually through Esther that Jon is able to figure out the root of his issue with sexuality and why he canít stop watching porn even though he has no problem hooking up with women.
What Gordon-Levitt does a good job with here is exploring a story about porn addiction with it being overly skeevy, if that makes any sense. The issue of Jonís plight through his lens is unpretentious and doesnít come off as some grand cautionary tale. The sex scenes are all fairly tame and brief along with the short porn clip interludes. There is nothing here that would make the Farrelly brothers blush. That being said, witnessing Jon repeatedly delve into his adult videos almost like a crutch is suitably unsettling. Jon's porn addiction seems akin to a sort of security blanket at times. It's a very strong performance on Gordon-Levitt's part.
Gordon-Levitt did supremely well with the casting here. Other than Johansson there are little in the way of big stars in the film. Danza and Headly are a riot as Jonís loud and obnoxious parents. Brie Larson has a fairly small, yet punctual role as Jonís mostly-silent sister. Johansson is great and doesnít miss a beat as Barbara. Her thick Jersey accent never falters. Her own flaws and obsession with romantic comedies are humorously brought to light in one of the movieís most funny and effective scenes. Luke and Brown are great as Jonís similarly shallow-minded boys. I mean they are ridiculously shallow, but they are still good friends and they watch out for each other. Itís something one of the final scenes shows off well.
Joseph Gordon-Levittís performance as Jon is compelling, powerful, and at times more than a little pervasive. Jonís mug is constantly in your face as heís about to do his business. Gordon-Levitt also has no problem showing how fit he is either. At times, Jon looks like would fit right in with the cast of Jersey Shore. But where Gordon-Levitt succeeds so well is making this borderline Italian-American stereotype a three-dimensional person. Before the character seemingly goes overboard, there are elements and sides to Jon that bring him back from that edge.
The movie does end on a bit of an unfulfilling note. A couple scenes feel a bit padded in, even at the movieís short 90-minute runtime. Itís not a bad ending per se, so much as a couple things come off as relatively redundant and unnecessary. Esther as a character does come off as a little forced as a mentor of sorts, albeit one Jon can take to bed.
The 411: Joseph Gordon-Levitt asserts himself well as a writer-director with his debut feature. Don Jon is a compelling, humorous, but not overdone look at a mostly functioning man with an addiction. The film features strong performances and interesting characters. However, the movie does feel a bit flabby at the end.