Don Jon is the sophisticated outrageous adult comedy we’ve been waiting for all year. It’s smart, funny and has a charming message about the dangers of instant gratification and selfishness while hinting at the seemingly limitless potential of its first-time director/screenwriter Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Jon (Gordon-Levitt, Looper) has a problem. He enjoys his job as a bartender, partying with his pals Bobby (Rob Brown, The Dark Knight Rises) and Danny (Jeremy Luke) and always finds some random hottie to sleep with, but he’s not satisfied. His sexcapades just don’t do enough for him because no matter how gorgeous, sexy or adventurous his conquests are they just can’t measure up to his one true love — porn.
Porn isn’t demanding and with a few clicks of his mouse, Jon can instantly satisfy his every carnal desire in just a matter of minutes. Jon can’t go a day without staring at his laptop — entranced by various clips and tossing another used Kleenex in the trash can — a fitting visual for his disposal viewpoint of women.
That all changes when Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson, Marvel’s The Avengers), a woman who knows exactly how to get everything she wants from a man. Johansson is sexy.
I feel it necessary to remind you of that fact just in case you’d somehow forgotten that. She even manages to make a Jersey accent hot. In Johansson, Gordon-Levitt has the perfectly idealized sexpot who could turn most men into stammering yes dear puppets while reminding the audience that she’s a heck of an actress.
As much of a Don Jon considers himself, he’s no match for Barbara’s charms and soon finds himself in forced interactions with Barbara’s family and friends and enrolling in school.
There, he meets Esther (a fabulous Julianne Moore), an older student whose reasons for taking the class are never fully explained. While Barbara may be teaching Don Jon a few things about relationships, Esther proves the one most helpful in showing Jon how to truly relate to others.
We already know Gordon-Levitt is a reliable actor. He’s able to make each of his characters unique. In this case that means Jon has got a very distinct persona with an exaggerated cocksure strut, tight shirts and a slicked up hairstyle. Johansson makes Barbara just as memorable beyond the tight leopard print pants
Gordon-Levitt proves an adept triple threat in his directorial and screenwriting debut, which doesn’t resemble a virgin effort at all.
The main weak point is the subplot involving Jon’s parents, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) and Angela (Glenne Headly) and his sister, Monica (Brie Larson), whose cell phone is like another appendage. Gordon-Levitt never quite makes it clear what we’re supposed to get from the argumentative relationship between father and son or if it helped make Jon detached from meaningful relationships, but it’s not especially effective.
Thankfully, while its relevance to the overall plot is a stretch, the family scenes provide some of the film’s biggest laughs and a better than expected payoff.
While his subject matter may seem taboo and ironically overindulgent with the pornographic clips, Gordon-Levitt makes a compelling entertaining argument about the prevalence of sexual images can seriously hinder real intimacy.
It may be short of a breakthrough, but Don Jon definitely has me looking forward to seeing what Gordon-Levitt has in store for audiences next both in front and behind the camera.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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