Release Date: September 27, 2013
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 7/10
Just how much can media influence or shape our perceptions? What sort of impact can they have on us mentally and psychologically? If we’ve come under the influence of something, such as porn or rom-coms, would we be able to recognize that they aren’t reality but a mere interpretation of it? What sort of impact would something like that have on someone socially? Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in his feature film directorial debut, attempts to answer those questions in his romantic-comedy Don Jon.
Jon Martello, Jr., his friends call him Don Jon, is a regular lothario. He meets up with his friends, they scope out the chicks, rate them 1 to 10 and eventually Don Jon takes one home and has a one night stand. There’s just one problem, Jon loves porn. He loves it so much that he actually prefers porn to actual sex. He’ll even watch it after having sex. One night he sees Barbara Sugarman and falls for her in the worst way. He wants her so bad but while she is sexy and sultry she seems rather traditional. Barbara loves romantic comedies. She just eats them up and is drawn into them no matter how superficial. In fact her pretty in pink bedroom even features a framed poster of James Cameron’s Titanic. Can the guy addicted to porn and the girl looking for a Hollywood romance actually have a meaningful relationship? That is the central question in this often funny, far from perfect, raunchy but frank rom-com.
Gordon-Levitt steps behind the camera and does a decent job. He does try to get a bit flashy while using dissolves, multiple exposures, quick cuts, etc. His comic timing in front of and behind the camera elicits a number of good laughs. He is able to pull good comic performances from his ensemble cast and knows when to rein it in when things become quite dramatic. Gordon-Levitt not only directs and writes but is also the lead in the film. He does a fine job as a Hollywood-hyphenate. His screenplay is quick and breezy. There are times where it feels scripted and would have benefited if it were more improved and natural. Interestingly enough the best part of the film is the final act. It can be argued that it can get rather repetitive, the church scenes come to mind, however as a commentary on the church doctrine it works very well. It’s quite clear his aim was just to make a funny film about intimacy and overall it works.
Gordon-Levitt is very likable as Jon. Scarlett Johnson, despite her annoying accent, is quite good as Barbara. Tony Danza is very entertaining as Jon’s father. Julianne Moore gives the best performance as Esther, a woman Jon meets while at night school. The ensemble cast also features Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke and a few surprise cameos. It also features numerous porn clips starring many major stars of the industry.
Gordon-Levitt has made an amusing commentary on how messed up modern relationships can be. Not to be forgotten how much porn can screw up a relationship. The film can almost serve as a wake up call to anyone who finds themselves in that situation, well not a similar one but a relationship quandary per se. At a brisk ninety-minutes this comedy will provide a number of laughs, some thought provoking moments and in some cases may force you to clear your browser history.