Don Jon (2013) Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlet Johansson, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Rob Brown, Brie Larson and Julianne Moore.
In essence, Don Jon is a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of online pornography addiction and its corruption of any real human connection. To swerve a too heavy-handed approach, the film is written, directed and acted with a great degree of humour by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
When we meet Don Jon (JGL), and his nightclub buddies, he’s a bullish idiot. There’s a 10-point scoring system for any woman unlucky enough to wander into his line of sight. To him, the word ‘love‘ is the dirtiest one in the dictionary.
There’s more than a hint of caricature about Gordon-Levitt’s pumped up portrayal of the narcissistic single man, but then, walk into most nightclubs or gyms and you’ll usually spot one or too of his like; the virile young chancer with the world at his feet, self-consumed by his inward perspective and unable to fully appreciate the glory of his days. There is much about Don Jon that is both funny and tragic, which is a testament to Gordon-Levitt’s ability as a writer and director – to finely balance those two, often conjoined twin emotions.
Aside from himself and his apartment, which he seems to adore more than any of the girls he invites back to it, his only real love in his life is porn. That is, until he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). For his feature debut, to have a cast of this calibre (Julianne Moore, Gleanne Headley and Brie Larson are also here) is a real luxury.
What initially appears to be a tasteless tale of men-being-men, gradually evolves into a more serious-minded take of a journey towards the light. How much you are rooting for Jon to find his way out of the mire of digital (dis)satisfaction, that is his porn addiction, depends on your own goodwill, but there’s no doubt that Gordon-Levitt is trying admirably, to use comedy to make a statement about the dark side of not just porn, but addiction in general.
In a sense, Don Jon is a resonant film for our times. Aside from having an array of colourful characters (Tony Danza is a scene stealer as Jon Sr.) -the piece is unique in the way that it goes from laddish sex-comedy, to thoughtful relationship drama. Gordon-Levitt is excellent in the lead role and is complimented by two contrasting, but equally fine turns from Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore. Which of those two women you find most appealing, come the final credits, will to some extent, determine how much you have complied with, and been affected by the film. 4/5