By Josh Feldman
Don Jon, the first film from young Hollywood veteran Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fun, sexy ride with a simple story. At the center, it’s about a man who’s afraid to grow up. The movie has its flaws, for sure, especially with the subplot involving Julianne Moore’s character, but it’s such a fun movie to watch from the first frame to the last, that the errors are bearable, even forgettable at times.
Written by Gordon-Levitt, he also takes on starring duties as Joe Martello, an Italian-American living in New Jersey. Joe has mastered a routine to his life, as we see early on in dazzling, visually delicious montages: get up, go to work, work out, pick up girls at clubs to go home with.
However, what he does after he gets the girl home is what makes this movie stand out: every time, without fail, after he has sex with a girl, Joe must masturbate to pornography on the internet. This, Joe tells us, is just better than sex.
Things become complicated for Joe when he sets eyes on a “perfect 10” girl, Barbara, played to biting perfection by Scarlett Johansson. Barbara is vapid, but gorgeous – and she knows it. Barbara also demands to be treated like a princess, and wants her man to be just that – a man. This is why Barbara freaks out when she learns that Joe loves to clean. At the store, as Joe searches for a vacuum, Barbara begins to panic. “Stop!” she yells at him. When Barbara stumbles across Joe jerking off to his computer, she also freaks. Joe hides his addiction, saying it was a once-in-a-while thing.
Joe tries to maintain the façade, as his relationship with Barbara grows serious. His attempts at covering up his porn addiction are funny, and Gordon-Levitt uses the opportunity for character growth, as Joe comes to look at the world through new lens when he realizes he’s been lying to himself as well.
This is where Julianne Moore comes in. She plays a grieving widow who begins having sex with Joe, expanding his horizons both in bed and outside in the world. Moore’s character gets Joe to see that he’s using his addiction to porn as a crutch. He’s afraid of intimacy. This is where the film begins to feel weak, as it heads towards a final act with a very simple explanation: Joe is afraid of intimacy.
Problems with the story aside, the acting here is wonderful. Everyone across the board turns in spectacular performances. Tony Danza and Glenne Headly give great comedic performances as Joe’s old-fashioned parents, but Brie Larson’s talents are wasted as she plays Joe’s sister who is mute for most of her scenes as she keeps her head glued to her phone.
For a first film, Gordon-Levitt has done a good job. He has a definite vision, and a clear approach in telling a story, as well as getting a character across. It will be exciting to see what he comes up with next, but for a first at-bat, Don Jon is a pretty sexy and fun swing.
- Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
- Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
- Running Time: 90 minutes
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance