Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut is a fun look at a sterotypical Italian guido and his battle with sex addiction. The film received high praises at Sundance this January, and for good reason. The casting is spectacular and JGL's writing and direction are truly one-of-a-kind. The film constantly makes you laugh, but also really makes you think about how you connect with other people.
Don Jon is goofy. The audience laughs throughout the whole film because everything is so embellished. The characters all have the thick Jersey accents. Jon's family gets together every Sunday morning for mass like the good Italian Catholics that they are, and then they go home and eat pasta. Seriously. There's also the fact that every time Jon turns on his favorite pasttime, you hear the startup noises of a Macintosh computer and when you see him throw his used tissues in the trash you hear the satisfyingly humorous noise of an Apple's trash can function. It is all the little touches like these that make the movie so easy to love. The movie is filled with cliches on purpose and wants you to know that the film thinks they are ridiculous too. For example, Jon's girlfriend Barbara loves romantic comedies, so every time you see the pair kiss you hear music that would be in the big first kiss scene of one of these films. Absurd? Absolutely. Gordon-Levitt takes farcical things like that and masterfully makes them great.
The casting in this film is perfect. From the very first line in the film, you forgot that Gordon-Levitt used to be known in movies as the awkward best friend. Much like in last year's Looper, his voice sounds so much unlike what you are used to that you stop and wonder if it is really him talking. Obviously, he also did some serious weight lifting for the film. Ladies will not be complaining that he spends most of the movie in a tank top. He is made to look a lot like his father Jon Sr. (played by a surprisingly talented Tony Danza), while his sister (Brie Larson) looks so much like Glenne Headly that its hard not to stare as they sit around the table in their dining room. Scarlett Johansson is great as meldramatic girlfriend Barbara. She's a full on Jersey girl stereotype, which makes her that much funnier. However, while her demands of her significant other are crazy, anyone who has dreamed of getting a fairytale ending from a movie like the ones she watches can almost see where she is coming from. It was great to see big names like these step out of their normal comfort zones.
The best part of film happens behind the scenes. The script is filled with hilarious one-liners, clever voice-over monologues, and jokes that keep you entertained throughout Jon's struggle. Direction-wise, Gordson-Levitt did a spectacular job. The movie is different. It repeats itself so many times, but the way he decided to show it keeps the audience laughing every time. There are cool stylistic choices that help you see his addicition without actually having to see anything. It is a smart and funny way to portray a problem that really is not that funny at all.
Perhaps the only thing that makes Don Jon a less than perfect film is his relationship with Esther (Moore). It feels like the importance of her character takes too long to establish, and even when you start learning about her it feels as though something is missing. She is an intregal player in Jon's story, but it feels so rushed and incomplete. It should have been explored more and, unlike the rest of Jon's life, not so hurried.
Don Jon does a great job of showing just how multi-talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt is. With the help of a great script and an even greater cast, this will be a film people are buzzing about for a while. It may have needed a little more development in places, but it certainly is a one of a kind movie that you will not soon forget.