Joseph Gordon-Levitt is no stranger to the bright lights of Hollywood, but with “Don Jon”, his first outing as a writer-director, Gordon-Levitt has revealed himself as a bright new voice in cinema. The movie, which opens on Sept. 27 is the story of Jon, a Jersey boy who only really cares about a few things in life: his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and his porn. His streak of bagging a girl everytime he goes out comes to an abrupt end, and his routine life takes a sudden turn, when he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a girl who watches as many rom-coms as he does skin flicks. When his favorite pastime becomes a hurdle in their relationship, Jon decides it may be time to change.
As Jon, Gordon-Levitt transforms completely into a dead ringer for a “guido” who shares some of the sensibilities of “The Situation,” Johansson likewise disappears into her character in a performance that shows off a subtle sense of comedy. For the mass of the film it seems that Brie Larson (who was brilliant in "Short Term 12") is being tragically underutilized, but when her turn as Jon’s little sister finally materializes into more than silence dripping with sarcasm, the result is worth the wait. For all of the solid individual performances, is the chemistry between Julianne Moore and Joseph Gordon-Levitt that provides the most intriguing moments in the film.
With its assembled cast it was pretty much a given that “Don Jon” would be well-acted, the larger question that has surrounded it is whether the plot is worthy of the assembled star power. Gordon-Levitt has created a film that is boldly original and confident. His commentary on the impact of the medium of film on our lives speaks to those thoughts that stray across the mind in quiet moments, and in that way it is beautiful. Unfortunately, the impact this analysis has on the direction of the plot means that the brilliance of this effort may not appeal to those who like their movies to be a candy-coated diversion, rather than an insightful analysis of the medium in which they exist.
“Don Jon” heralds the arrival of Joseph Gordon-Levitt the director, a promising and thoughtful artist, who hopefully has many more stories to tell.