With ‘Don Jon’, he takes the relatively rare initiative to write and direct a project. Let’s see how it turns out.
Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is a young man in New Jersey who is able to woo nearly any woman he wants out at the clubs. Despite all of the sex he has, nothing fulfills him like watching porn on the internet. He is addicted to it.
His routine is interrupted when he spots a legitimate ‘dime’ (a perfect ten on the attractiveness scale) in Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). He approaches her and she reciprocates his interest, but keeps Jon at an arm’s length, forcing him to take things slowly. This abstinence drives Jon crazy, but he falls deeply in love with Barbara. When things begin to get serious between the two, she imposes a number of rules on Jon, namely demanding honesty, that they meet each others’ friends and family and that he goes back to school. All the while, he struggles to keep his secret habit from her.
Will all of these changes stick for Jon? Will his secret addictive personality come to the surface? Are they actually in a healthy relationship?
First off, you ladies who are expecting a lighthearted romantic comedy featuring your favorite handsome leading man will be disappointed. The pornographic images in here aren’t overly graphic, but are pervasive and really set the tone for the story. It would be off-putting to someone who doesn’t want to be confronted with frank sexual dialog and visuals. This is a story about addiction and personal growth with some romance stirred in.
In terms of dialog and character interaction, this is well written and the direction is surprisingly strong. Actually, Gordon-Levitt may have revealed himself to be a director to watch down the line. Small things like Jon’s progress (spiritual/person/whatever) being measured by the Hail Marys he is prescribed during each confession and some characters’ observations show a real eye for detail. The short runtime (as usual) pays dividends.
As far as the overall story, it hits a few snags and really seems to stumble toward the end. There doesn’t need to be a tidy bow wrapping up every story, but the detour this takes and where things are left off seems to be a bit anti-climactic. The narrative surprises are appreciable, but not the strongest choices. A tiny bit more humor would have also benefited this story.
Gordon-Levitt has a good grip on the material and Johansson is at the peak of her alluring powers. Tony Danza gives a surprisingly loose performance (in a good way) and Julianne Moore effectively lends some emotional heft as one of Jon’s adult classmates.
Special features include: HitRECord shorts, a trailer and previews.
Given the subject matter, it’s hard to see who ‘Don Jon’ was made and marketed for. Despite this, it is a surprisingly solid first feature for Gordon-Levitt the writer/director.
Rated R 90 minutes 2013