Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut takes aim at relationship delusions of men and women in 'Don Jon'
Starring: 3 out of 4
Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke
Can we all admit we're at least a little fascinated by porn?
If you're a prude or in denial (or both), you've already stopped reading. For the 99 percent of us who can at least admit it to ourselves, "Don Jon" is a movie offering brutally honest truths that will strike a chord for men and women alike.
Among Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his buddies Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke), Jon has the most success with the ladies and, of course, by "success," I mean "one-night stands." One conquest after another is fine with Jon, but the reality is this: He prefers porn. He has valid reasons why this is his preference, reasons most women will not like but men will acknowledge as true. For sex-addict Jon, who goes to confession, works as a bartender, spends time with his family and takes care of his apartment, life is good.
Then, Jon meets alpha-girl knockout Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), and everything changes. Not in the sense that he falls head-over-heels in love, has a crisis of conscience and realizes the error of his ways (though there is some of that), but rather in Jon's desire to be with just one person instead of a new girl every weekend. Jon's family (headed by a hilarious Tony Danza as his dad, Glenne Headly as his mom and Brie Larson as his sister) also likes her, and Barbara seems to love Jon in return. At least at first.
What's fascinating about Jon and Barbara's relationship is that each has different views about love, sex and dating, and each is completely delusional. Jon has never truly made love because, to him, it's all about the act rather than the connection, and Barbara is so enamored with the idea of a fairy-tale prince and the drama of sappy rom-coms that she doesn't allow for the hardships love can bring. Each has an ideal the other couldn't possibly meet, no matter how hard they try.
This is where Esther (Julianne Moore) comes in. As the older, experienced woman Jon meets while taking the night classes Barbara forced him to take, he slowly begins to understand what a real connection of love should feel like. It's a small part for Moore but an essential one for the movie, as it requires an actress with the talent and screen presence to stop this playboy in his tracks and force him to grow up. The role could not be better cast.
During pre-production, Gordon-Levitt considered having Channing Tatum play Jon; Tatum does appear in a small cameo as a movie star opposite Anne Hathaway.
Appropriately lighthearted and serious when it wants/needs to be, this is an impressive directorial debut for Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote the script. Yes, it's a bit repetitive at times, but the conclusion and blunt honesty throughout suggest that Gordon-Levitt had an original idea and saw it through. More movies should be this bold.