Writer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson
Running time: 90mins
The lowdown: Aw-shucks grin hot property Joseph Gordon Levitt once more whips out his outrageously large talent with this knockout directorial debut… that he also wrote… and stars in. As uber-confident swordsman Jon Martello (“Don” Jon to his awed friends), a hit with the ladies but more interested in online porn, he offers a bare-naked depiction of the modern male. But with Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore co-starring as two very different women in his life, you know Jon’s road to enlightenment is going to have quite a few ups and downs.
The full verdict: Sex is everywhere. In movies, on magazine covers, in adverts, and over the internet. All over the internet.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes the sexualisation of everything as the launch pad for his raunchy, bitter-sweet love story and has fun pricking the dumb swagger of his lead character and pop-culture fantasies about love and sex, be they from Hollywood romcoms or the flesh industry.
A frank, funny voiceover dives straight into the action, with Jon admitting the start-up chime of his laptop gets his lap dancing, before extolling the virtues of internet grot over the real thing (of which he stills gets plenty).
Coming across like a New Jersey, blue collar, non-lethal American Psycho, Jon is boorish, full of swagger, waxing bravado with his pals, and constantly sharking for conquests.
Testament then to Gordon-Levitt’s reputation that we never doubt Jon won’t receive a rude awakening at some point. And the actor/director shades his character prior to this; sure Jon is an amped-up gym rat with a fast car and a fast n’ loose attitude to the Catholic Church. But, he’s also house proud, buffing his floors and mirrors as lovingly as he buffs himself.
The bubble starts to wobble when Barbara (Johansson) slinks into his life. A “dime” (i.e., a perfect 10), she makes him work for it, enrolling him in evening classes, dragging him to soppy movies, meeting his friends and his family (Danza, Headly, Larson, all spot-on), before putting out.
And Barbara has a zero tolerance policy toward online grumble videos, placing Jon in a sticky situation vis-à-vis his addiction.
Gordon-Levitt directs with a whizz bang energy reminiscent of a young Scorsese or Aronofsky, amusingly rapid-firing Jon’s online sessions, cutting to an Inception-like “bwaaaa” soundtrack.
But, Don Jon’s maturity and insight proves the actor was paying attention on such character rich movies as Brick, Looper and 50/50 (and makes you forgive him for (500) Days of Summer).
Rather than following the typical romcom formula, the film throws in wild card Julianne Moore as fellow mature student Esther. With secrets of her own but a non-judgemental view of Jon’s failings Esther offers an alternate female viewpoint to Barbara’s, allowing Moore much more fun than she has in the Carrie remake.
When Jon’s life philosophy and reliance on Catholic confession stumble it is Esther who provides answers (of a sort).
With balanced, witty and relevant points to make about how porn is shaping young men’s expectations of sex it is also disappointing the BBFC have slapped Don Jon with an 18 cert.
Unexpectedly rich and rewarding, it should be seen by as (for want of a better word) big an audience as possible.