Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
In his new film and directorial debut, “Don Jon,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt explores the issues of addiction and meaningful relationships in a way that completely deviates from the norm of traditional, romantic comedies. Instead, he focuses on the perverse nature of modern-day pornography and self-centered misogyny.
Gordon-Levitt plays Jon Martello, Jr., a man whose life centers around his bachelor pad, his precious muscle car and his many insignificant one-night stands with women, which he frequently compares to the soft glow of the Internet porn he loves more than anything else. His conceptions about relationships are tested when he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), a striking young blond who is obsessed with romantic films, which give her a different set of desires for a picture-perfect relationship.
Gordon-Levitt has proven himself a spectacular actor through his roles in films like “(500) Days of Summer” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” yet he’s a newcomer in the directing scene. Despite this, “Don Jon” is his first full-length film, and as both writer and director, Gordon-Levitt showcases his ability to keep the heavy subject in balance with the comedic parts. In one scene, short outtakes of explicit clips from pornographic videos are interweaved with Jon’s weekly confessions at his church, which brilliantly portray how difficult it is to ignore an addiction no matter how serious the situation. Despite the risque subject the film touches on, Gordon-Levitt succeeded in emphasizing originality and humor.
While their characters’ have different beliefs on what is important in relationships, Gordon-Levitt and Johansson bring a real sense of chemistry to the screen. From their small endearments, such as calling each other “baby,” to a trivial argument about a Swiffer sweeper in a store, Johansson and Gordon-Levitt execute their on-screen interactions with as much intensity as real lovers would.
Visually, the film uses a tremendous number of graphic and bodacious sexual clips sequenced together almost like a montage. The familiar startup chime of a Mac computer always preceded these pornography montages, which became comedic over the course of the film as it increased in frequency when Jon was about to indulge himself in even more erotic material. At times, the highly sexual clips were slightly overused, but their presence in the film were valuable in providing more context to explain Jon’s addiction and his warped view of relationships.
Gordon-Levitt not only proves himself as a competent actor, but also as an excellent filmmaker who is not afraid to dive into issues as controversial and exposing as pornography addictions. It was a risky project to take on, especially with the frequent use of highly sexual clips, but “Don Jon” is a surprisingly enjoyable and thought-provoking film.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars