Don Jon is a smart, sexy battle of selfish desires
Don Jon is the sophisticated outrageous adult comedy we’ve been waiting for all year. It’s smart, funny and has a charming message about the dangers of instant gratification and selfishness while hinting at the seemingly limitless potential of its first-time director/screenwriter Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Jon (Gordon-Levitt, Looper) has a problem. He enjoys his job as a bartender, partying with his pals Bobby (Rob Brown, The Dark Knight Rises) and Danny (Jeremy Luke). He always finds some random hottie to sleep with, but he’s not satisfied.
His sexcapades just don’t do enough for him. No matter how gorgeous, sexy or adventurous his conquests they can’t compete with his one true love — porn.
Porn isn’t demanding and with a few clicks of his mouse, Jon can instantly satisfy his every carnal desire. Jon can’t go a day without staring at his laptop. Entranced by various clips and tossing another used Kleenex in the trash can. That’s a fitting visual for his disposal viewpoint of women.
That all changes when Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson, Marvel’s The Avengers), a woman who knows exactly how to get everything she wants from a man. Spoiler: In case you’d forgotten Johansson is sexy.
She even manages to make a Jersey accent hot. In Johansson, Gordon-Levitt has the perfectly idealized sexpot. She could turn most men into stammering ‘yes dear’ puppets. All the while reminding the audience that she’s a heck of an actress.
As much of a ‘Don’ Jon considers himself, he’s no match for Barbara’s charms. Soon he finds himself in forced interactions with Barbara’s family and friends and enrolling in school.
There, he meets Esther (a fabulous Julianne Moore), an older student who seems to be randomly taking classes. While Barbara may be teaching Don Jon about relationships, Esther proves the most helpful. Particularly as it comes to relating to others.
We already know Gordon-Levitt is a reliable actor. He’s able to make each of his characters unique. In this case that means Jon has got a very distinct persona with an exaggerated strut, tight shirts and a slicked hairstyle. Johansson makes Barbara just as memorable. And that’s even beyond the tight leopard print pants.
Gordon-Levitt proves an adept triple threat in his directorial and screenwriting debut, which doesn’t resemble a virgin effort at all.
The main weak point is the subplot. It’s comprised of Jon’s parents, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) and Angela (Glenne Headly) and his sister, Monica (Brie Larson). Monica’s cell phone is like another appendage. Gordon-Levitt never quite makes it clear what we’re supposed to get from the argumentative relationship between father and son. Or if it helped make Jon detached from meaningful relationships. Regardless, it’s not especially effective.
Thankfully, while its relevance to the overall plot is a stretch, the family scenes provide some of the film’s biggest laughs and a better than expected payoff.
Don Jon features a subject matter some may seem taboo. Ironically, it gets a little overindulgent with the pornographic clips. Gordon-Levitt makes a compelling argument about how the prevalence of sexual images can seriously hinder real intimacy.
Although short of a breakthrough, Don Jon is a strong showcase for its creator. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Gordon-Levitt has in store for audiences next. Both in front of and behind the camera.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Daniel McFadden/Relativity Media