“My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, and my porn.”
These are the most important things to Don Jon, the titular character in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut. The film is a social commentary on modern relationships, told through the eyes of a 20-something in New Jersey who is forced to come to terms with an addiction to porn that he never knew existed until he meets the girl that could change everything for him.
Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is referred to by his friends as “The Don,” due to his perfect track record for taking home an 8 or above every time he goes out with his boys. He takes care of himself and his belongings, hitting the gym and cleaning his apartment on a regular basis. He has a nice car, a loving family, and goes to church every Sunday. His friends are loyal, and always there for him. And he has no problem conquering any sexual conquest that he sets his… mind on. But no matter what he does, or how much he has in what seems to be a perfectly fulfilling life for him, he can’t get enough of his porn.
Don Jon’s addiction is so strong that he often leaves his current lover in bed after the deed is done, only to sneak off to his laptop for some X-rated browsing.
Each trip to the club is seemingly like the last, as Jon surveys the bar area with his boys Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke), and most often ends up taking home an 8 or a 9 (on the base ten hotness scale) by the end of the night. That is until he sees Barabara (Scarlett Johansson) standing at the bar in her tight red dress, instantly recognized as “a dime.” But unlike the others, she doesn’t go home with Jon that night. Nor does she the next time they meet, or a month later. Barbara is different, and the thrill of the chase is enough to turn Jon into a one woman man. Everything is great as the two fall in love, meet each other’s families, and talk about moving in together.
There is just one thing: Don Jon loves his porn.
We have literally watched Joseph Gordon-Levitt grow up since he started acting as a child. Although some may remember him as Dougie in Family Ties or George in Roseanne, I was first introduced to JGL in one of my favorite childhood films – Angels in the Outfield. Fortunately for the talented actor, he didn’t travel the road so often walked by most childhood stars. After six seasons of 3rd Rock from the Sun, JGL broke out into the film world and never looked back. I still remember the first time I watched 2005’s Brick, and just how impressed I was with it. Since then he has starred in several highly regarded films and blockbusters, showing the world just how talented an actor he is. And now he can add directing to the list, as Don Jon lives up to every expectation we could possibly hope for from a first time director – and even an experienced one at that.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt truly carries the film as the charismatic Don Jon. His character is intriguing, appearing to have everything he desires – yet it is never enough. The actor put on quite a bit of muscle for the role, usually appearing a bit on the skinny side. But he hit the weights, gelled his hair, and tanned his way seamlessly into the role. And it’s not all fun and games for his character. JGL has to deal with a spectrum of emotions on-screen, which he handles with ease.
The script, also written by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is fantastic. Not only are the characters interesting and fun to watch, but I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much during a film. The film is a clever satire at it’s root, chalk full of stereotypes that have more truth to them than we care to imagine. But that is what makes the film so great. That and the perfect comedic timing, which is more subtle than in your face. Just when you think Jon is on the straight and narrow, there goes the universally recognized sound of an Apple laptop booting up.
Scarlett Johansson has been one of my favorite actresses of the past decade, since I first noticed her in Lost in Translation and one of my favorite Woody Allen films: Match Point. Not only does the talented actress have the beauty to fill any role as a leading lady; she also comes of as intelligent and sophisticated. Her character isn’t like all of the other girls in the film, which is entertaining to watch as she gives Jon a run for his money. Although she is a bit of a “princess,” as she is referred to as in the film (which is putting it lightly), her character has some good ideals and moral beliefs. Unfortunately for her suitor, they become a bit too unrealistic and one-sided. But Johansson plays the role masterfully, slipping right into a Jersey accent and blending in with chameleon-like ability.
There is a great supporting cast as well. Jon’s family is comprised of his full-blooded Italian father (Tony Danza), loving mother (Glenne Headly), and quiet sister (Brie Larson) – who channels her inner-Kevin Smith for the role. Julianne Moore plays a fellow college student that teaches him more about life and love than he could ever learn in class.
While the film is witty and clever, it also handles the subject of addiction in a very subtle – yet positive way. Jon has everything in life he wants, only to see his world come crashing down because of his worst vice. The film also tackles the subject matter of pornography in a very real, honest way that has never been seen in the mainstream. The film is also very smart, and handles the material without coming off as gratuitous. There are some really well thought out morals throughout the tale as well.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s success with his first directing job reminds me of the likes of Quentin Tarantino, or more recently Ben Affleck. He too has hit a home run with his his first outing, and has proven that he can do it all. Don Jon is a well crafted, smart, and downright hilarious take on modern society and relationships. Not only can I not wait to watch it again, but I can’t wait to see what JGL has in store for us next.
Don Jon is an A.