CLEVER: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the movie Don Jon.
CLEVER: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the movie Don Jon.
DISARMING FILM: Left to right, Tony Danza, Glenne Headley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brie Larson.
DISARMING FILM: Left to right, Tony Danza, Glenne Headley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brie Larson.

Don Jon
DIRECTOR: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza, Glenne Headley, Julianne Moore, Brie Larson
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
RATING: ****


Joseph Gordon-Levitt has certainly grown up since playing the whippersnapper on 3rd Rock From the Sun. In Don Jon, his feature-length writing and directorial debut, he stars as Jon, a New Jersey bartender who has no trouble bedding ladies but finds pornography so much more transcendent.

Don Jon is a disarming film that proves Gordon-Levitt’s deftness behind the camera and in front of a computer screen, writing. The movie starts as a raunch-fest, revelling in crass language and frank discussions about the relative merits of computer-generated ecstasy over the old-fashioned kind.

But somewhere along the way the comedy seamlessly morphs into an incisive satire and, finally, an affecting story about the value of intimacy between two real people – not actors, not avatars.

The film switches gears from simple comedy to something more once Barbara (Johansson) enters the picture.

Jon, who tends to rate girls on a 10-point scale when he’s out with his posse of dudes, labels her a “dime”. In a more simplistic film, this bombshell might be the thing that gets Jon away from his laptop.

Instead, Gordon-Levitt makes Barbara a foil for Jon. But rather than harbouring an addiction to pornography, she believes in a different kind of fakery: the happy endings and Prince Charmings of romantic comedies.

While their predilections look different, they aren’t. Both characters have confused moving pictures with reality, so when everyday life unfolds before them, it tends to look less vibrant than the fantasy worlds they’ve virtually inhabited.

The story makes clever use of repetition, demonstrating evolution by the way Jon approaches certain routines.

He goes to the club with his boys, he eats dinner with his family, he goes to church and confesses his sins, and pumps iron at the gym.

Barbara also persuades him to start taking a class, which is where he’s befriended by a flighty oversharer, Esther (Moore).

With the exception of Jon’s sister Monica (Larson), the characters are nuanced and expertly crafted. Jon may look like a caricature, but there’s plenty happening behind that familiar facade. Better yet, the film manages to be extremely efficient, conveying its points, making the audience laugh, getting viewers invested and even breaking our hearts in just 90 minutes. – Washington Post


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Joseph Gordon-Levitt adds director and screenwriter to his résumé with ‘Don Jon’

While Don Jon turns into a complex portrayal with a surprisingly sweet message,
early chatter surrounding the movie focused mainly on the pornography element.

“I had the script and somebody said: ‘Oh, Joe Gordon-Levitt wrote this script and it’s about porn,’ “ recalled actress Julianne Moore.

She plays the off-kilter and straight-talking Esther, who becomes Jon’s unlikely friend.]
“I started reading it, and I looked up halfway through, and I said to my husband: ‘This isn’t about porn. This is amazing.’ Really, it’s a movie about intimacy to me. Touching, funny, original. I was completely taken with it.”

While Jon does indeed have an addiction to pornography, his real problem is that he is a victim of artifice – he has fooled himself into believing the raunchy fantasy can be real, and true life can never live up.

As his foil, Barbara (Scarlet Johansson) too, has it all wrong. A romantic-comedy afficionado, she believes that if a man truly loves a woman, he should give up everything to be with her, just like in the movies.

“The first kernel of an idea was trying to get at a story of how people treat each other more like things than like people and how media can play into that,” said Gordon-Levitt.

“I think it’s something everybody does… We have a tendency to pigeonhole.”
Some of these sentiments were no doubt inspired by Gordon-Levitt’s career path. He has worked in Hollywood most of his life and has denounced celebrity culture and the paparazzi’s compulsion to chase actors. And while he does come across as a typical 32-year-old guy, his easy, upbeat demeanour offers plenty of reminders of the cute kid from the 1990s sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun.

He spent much of the interview sitting cross-legged in a chair, revealing his mismatched socks (one had sheep, the other cars) and Adidas takkies.

The film was made on a shoestring budget in order that he could retain creative control, and the idea was to premiere the movie at Sundance in the hopes a company would acquire distribution rights. It worked, and critics and movie-goers have plenty of praise for the movie.

“A lot of people really love it and get everything we’re doing, and some people dismiss it because it doesn’t pull punches and it uses vocabulary – both verbal vocabulary as well as visual vocabulary – that some people won’t want to engage with,” Gordon-Levitt said.

“I was pretty confident people my age would like it. I was curious whether people my parents’ age would like it, and they have really liked it a lot. So that’s something that’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Moore said, “I’m not surprised that people are enjoying it. It played so beautifully.
“I think it played the way it read, where it appears to be about one thing that’s wildly, raucously funny and then there’s something mysterious and touching and surprising about it.” – Washington Post