Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: R Release Date: September 27, 2013
PLOT: A man who loves his porn nickname Don Jon (Gordon-Levitt) falls for a girl (Johansson) who loves her romance movies.
WHO'S IT FOR? Both guys and gals will appreciate and marvel at Gordon-Levitt's honesty.
The very busy Joseph Gordon-Levitt has spent years on this tale, which has a storyline that can't be much different from the type of drama experienced by a generation that paralleled in age to the rise of internet porn. His script, evolving in the screenwriting process from a tragedy about a porn master ruined by his objectifying obsessions to something significantly more optimistic, has shaped into a diagnosis on the type of creeper culture that willed entities like Jersey Shore into existence, looking at both The Situations and the Snookis; the guys who objectify women so much that they can't truly connect with the females they are grinding against, and the women who are caught up in their own type of impressions given to them by media, or in this film's case, romantic comedies. It's a little bit stereotypical, but to make Gordon-Levitt's romanticized point about the ultimate difference between having sex and making love, it works.
Gordon-Levitt directs this story with a strong attitude, using repetition as his ultimate friend in immediately creating a grasp on this bizarre individual (something that Rian Johnson did on their previous collaborative effort Looper, with the same effect). With some of its jokes coming from repetition, Don Jon doesn't sour its own jokes despite being referenced more than once, and he cuts them off before they overstay their welcome. The sound of an Apple Computer's trash can in particular never gets tiresome whenever we witness Jon throw away his impregnated Kleenxes.
Pioneered by a goofy performance from the enigmatic Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon has a very direct talk about sex to an audience that immediately buys into over-sexualized culture, or that once associated Sisqo's "Thong Song" with genuine sexuality. A bit of the magic of Don Jon is that Gordon-Levitt gets his audience to laugh at these same ideas, and introducing full awareness to the ridiculous gaming on both ends, for the guys and dolls. Club scenes in particular are boosted by Gordon-Levitt's focus on creating habit - the title character sees one girl at the club, debates her number on a scale, and then it's the same dance moves, accompanied by the same music. To hear an audience laugh at these moments is nonetheless an impressive feat.
Gordon-Levitt achieves a severe amount of honesty into machismo mentality in particular by raiding very specific passages of guy talk, and showing how his passions (gym, church, family, porn, clubbing) have driven him inward, instead of outward. Gordon-Levitt's voiceovers are some of the most direct monologues to be had to a mainstream audience that rarely talks about sex without some type of covered fanfare, if at all. Here, Gordon-Levitt goes into deep and hilarious detail about the many facets of sex, and why porn is better than the actual act itself. Throughout this portrayal, to Gordon-Levitt's immense credit, his character never strikes as untrue.
That is until the third act, in which Gordon-Levitt's boldness takes it largest leap, into a plot that aims to redeem Don Jon and show his audience the importance of connection in love, and primarily the difference of making love and having sex. It doesn't work within the story, especially considering the very specific standards of Jon, but it does provide a poetic resolution to this story that is more romantic than one may expect it to be. It's just not believable, but thankfully it comes with a good heart, and is similarly impacting; Gordon-Levitt's unique way of appealing to an audience that objectifies each other pays off. Nonetheless making for a surprising and strange third act, to say something he so strongly believes in, Gordon-Levitt is ready to risk the believability of his final words for his most romantic notions.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10