The short review: A compelling character study with a solid script and anchored by a pitch perfect cast, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon, offers up a money shot of a movie with heart, humor and personality in spades.
The long review: Let’s be honest – at first glance, Don Jon does not sound like a movie I have any interest in seeing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Jon Martello, a musclebound Jersey meathead who is called “Don Jon” by his friends for his seemingly preternatural ability to pull down a different girl every weekend. But, for Jon, real sex isn’t fulfilling; he likes it all right, but nothing compares the glitz, the glamor and the sheer escapism offered by Internet porn. That’s right, good old pornography. The film’s original title, Don Jon’s Addiction, made it sound a lot bleaker than it is, but Don Jon surpassed my expectations and turned out to be an amiable, humorous look into a man who leads a hollow life and tries to fill it with something equally empty and hollow: pornography.
It’s a slick, well-directed debut for JGL, who pulls triple duty by writing, directing and starring in the film, but fortunately, he’s anchored by a simply stellar cast, including Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza, Julianne Moore, Glenne Headly, and Brie Larson, and a savvy use of music and sound (courtesy of Nathan Johnson, brother and frequent collaborator of Looper/Brick director Rian Johnson) that elevates the film even when the script doesn’t rise to the occasion. For some, the film may seem a bit too formulaic or by the numbers, but I found it to be heartfelt, human, and a moving piece of romantic comedy, especially in light of its, shall we say, unorthodox subject matter.
The film makes ample use of running gags like the sound of Jon’s laptop ominously booting up and one including Brie Larson — that I won’t spoil here — that gives the story ample laughs and audiences repeated reasons to chuckle even when things take a turn for the saccharine. Gordon-Levitt has proven himself to be an actor to watch in recent years, but with Don Jon, he has given us many more reasons to be excited about his work behind the camera in the years to come.
I’ll leave you with this fun fact: Joseph Gordon-Levitt hand-picked the porn for Don Jon. That right there is the mark of a true artist dedicated to his craft.