Writer / Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Rob Brown, Jeremy Lake, and Glenne Headly
Jon is a person that knows what he likes. He likes his pad, his ride, his friends, his family, his church, his body, and most of all he loves his porn. So much so he loves masturbating to porn more than actually having sex with a woman. It’s not that he can’t get women–he has a new one every weekend–he just prefers porn.
Out at a club with his friends Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Lake), he spots his dime (10) for the night, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). Barbara is not immediately impressed with Jon and eventually gives him the blow-off. Unaffected, Jon meets and gets another woman. Back at his place they have bad sex–more his fault than hers–and go to bed. Later, as usual, Jon leaves his conquest in bed to go to his computer, watch porn, and then jerk-off.
But something about Barbara stays with him. After some investigating and cyber stalking through Facebook, Jon discovers Barbara’s name and how to get in contact with her. Impressed with his drive to meet her, Barbara agrees to go out with Jon but sex is not immediately on the table. Over time she begins to encourage Jon to go back to school and get a degree, wants them both to meet each others family, and overall becomes a positive influence in his life.
Eventually they do have sex, but for Jon it still is not better than porn. Unfortunately for him she catches Jon watching it and jerking-off to it after their session. In convincing her not to leave him Jon agrees to give-up porn. And as time goes by that is not all Jon needs to give-up if he wants to stay with her.
Don Jon is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first effort as a writer and director. The inexperience shows more with the direction than the writing. The story is not your typical romantic comedy, and in fact is more a coming of age story–a child becoming an adult. Jon’s character should not be sympathetic but he is. He is self-centered and self-absorbed, but he is not an ass. Barbara too is well-developed. She is a strong woman who knows what she wants and plans to get it. Though ultimately unsympathetic, she never crosses that line to bitch.
As a director, Gordon-Levitt is rough around the edges. Jon’s Sunday ritual, though useful to help establish time passing and when we are, becomes too repetitive with the constant use of the same setup. In other words, the scene of the family sitting in the pew at Church and then Jon’s confessional are funny, the shots before of Jon being a hot-head while driving, walking across the street to Church, and the image of the monk and boy statue at the top of the Church become boring after the third time we have seen them.
On the positive side Gordon-Levitt does a great job revealing character by showing instead of telling. We know Jon is neat freak and meticulous not because someone said so, but because we see the time he takes to make his bed and smooth out the wrinkles, as well as him scratching out tough stains while he washes his dishes.
Don Jon is a film with a well-developed story and good direction. Though it won’t change your life, you will leave the theatre feeling better for having watched it.
Grade = B