Gordon-Levitt finds success with directorial debut ‘Don Jon’Posted on September 26, 2013 | by Shawn Flanagan
Jon only cares about a few things in life — “My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls and my porn.”
At least he’s honest.
In his directorial debut, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has crafted a great film and titular character with “Don Jon.” The social critique presented in the film — the idea that people do not understand how to have intimate relationships — is simple, touching and hilarious, but goes a long way because of its relatability. Looking at the list of Jon’s priorities and character traits, this film is not a traditional love story. Rather, it is a tale about one man discovering what real love actually entails.
Jon (Gordon-Levitt) prefers pornography to his many sexual relations in real life. Every Sunday, he attends confession at his local church and goes to dinner with his family. He says his Hail Marys at the gym the next morning, but then he’s back in his regular routine at the bar and on porn sites.
Enter Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), the most beautiful girl Jon has ever seen. They begin dating, going out for food and meeting each other’s families. She even drags Jon to see romantic comedies, which he can’t stand. And then, inevitably, Barbara catches Jon watching porn.
Jon’s addiction to porn has crippled his ability to be a part of a real relationship. Jon’s statement that romantic comedies are “fake, but they watch it like it’s real life” echoes throughout the film.
What he fails to realize is porn is not real love either — his favorite porn stars make love because they are paid. Jon faces the challenge of learning to give up his porn for a relationship with Barbara.
A brilliant supporting cast complements this lead duo — Tony Danza, Glenne Headly and Brie Larson, who play Jon’s father, mother and sister, respectively. Danza delivers a bravura performance and provides many of the film’s best laughs. However, Julianne Moore, whose touching and incredibly honest performance as the broken Esther, one of Jon’s classmates at a local community college, steals the show. She brings the film heart, and provides the most beautiful and tender moments.
Despite focusing so frequently on porn, “Jon” is an incredibly tasteful film. Yes, there is occasional nudity, but the context and timing is important to remember. The nudity only serves the film’s social critique, as the filmmakers do not exploit what could have been raunchy scenes.
Gordon-Levitt has established himself as an intelligent and original writer and filmmaker with “Don Jon.” The screenplay may falter slightly toward the end of the film, as some of the dialogue seems forced, but the film’s ideas and performances shine far above its few flaws — even if you don’t share the web pages on Jon’s Internet history.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 26 print edition. Shawn Flanagan is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.