Sunday, October 6, 2013

Movie Review: "Don Jon"

Can a guy who watches porn on a fairly regular basis (read: multiple times a day) be capable of having a "real" relationship? That question is at the center of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's tremendously entertaining and surprisingly sensitive directorial debut, Don Jon. (He also wrote the screenplay.)

As Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt) says, "There's only a few things I really care about in life—my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, and my porn."

Jon is a cocky, good looking bartender in New Jersey completely satisfied with his life, which includes tough workouts at the gym, church on Sunday followed by dinner with his bickering family, and evenings at the local club with his best friends, where they rate the women on a 1-10 scale, brag about who they'll hit on, and then, inevitably, Jon leaves with a different beautiful specimen every night, never to call them again afterwards. (His friends don't call him "Don Jon" for nothing.) But the thing is, even though Jon almost always has sex with the women he meets, he still is drawn to the siren call of his laptop and the internet porn he watches. His porn habit satisfies him more than the actual sex he's having does.

One night he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson, at her hottest) and he knows he wants her. But Barbara isn't fooled by Jon's game, and won't let herself just be another notch in his belt. She forces him to actually date her, to introduce her to his friends and family and meet hers. And little by little Barbara starts to change Jon, convincing him to go back to school, and to watch the romantic movies she so loves. Needless to say, Barbara is less than enamored of Jon's internet entertainment exploits (which, of course, he passes off as a one-time thing for fear of ruining their relationship), so he promises her he'll never do that again.

But as Jon does everything that Barbara wants him to, and starts integrating her into his Sundays with the family (the different reactions from his parents, played by Tony Danza and Glenne Headly, are priceless), he starts wondering if he likes being the "new" Jon. When he has the opportunity to see a different side of things, as he starts interacting with a fellow student, the troubled Esther (Julianne Moore), Jon begins to wonder whether he is capable of a real relationship given his, umm, attachment to porn.

Gordon-Levitt does a great job mining the central question of the movie, both for laughs and deeper thought. How could Jon pass up an opportunity for a relationship with Barbara? Don't relationships require people to compromise a bit? And with Johansson as the object of Gordon-Levitt's affection, you could certainly understand the dilemma. Both actors do a terrific job with their roles, making them more than just the stereotypical Jerseyites. And while Julianne Moore brings her usual sensitivity and intelligence to her small role, it felt a little tacked on, almost as the answer key to a difficult exam.

This is a fun, funny, raunchy, sweet, and good-hearted movie. While I'm more than comfortable admitting I have a bit of a Joseph Gordon-Levitt obsession, with Don Jon he proves that his talents go far beyond acting, and I look forward to seeing what's next for him in the writing and directing arenas.

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