Please note that this a capsule review. Our full review is under embargo until the film’s release date, which is September 27th, 2013.
Who would have thought that the story of a man forced to overcome his porn addiction after falling for the girl of his dreams would turn out to be one of the most touching, intelligent and crowd-pleasing films of the year? Not I, that’s for sure. But that’s exactly the case when it comes to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s stunning directorial debut, Don Jon.
Proving that he’s truly a triple threat, not only does Gordon-Levitt confidently direct the film, but he also provides the brilliant screenplay and turns in one of his best performances yet as the titular Jon, a young man living in New Jersey who is a guido in the truest sense of the word.
Complete with the thick accent, undeniable swagger and bulging biceps, Gordon-Levitt plays the part to perfection, giving a heartfelt performance as a good intentioned, yet shallow man who doesn’t understand what’s wrong with his unnatural addiction to porn. Don is so far removed from the type of role that we usually see the young actor in and it’s truly a treat to watch him become immersed in this fully-realized character, one who you can really root for and completely sympathize and fall in love with.
Despite this being Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s show, the rest of the cast shines too. Tony Danza brings most of the laughs as Jon’s father, while Scarlett Johansson is a delight to watch as the girl of Jon’s dreams. I should also mention Julianne Moore, who despite being stuck with a bit of an under-written role, does give a very strong performance. Really, the acting is top-notch across the board and it only makes the film that much more enjoyable.
Gordon-Levitt’s first screenplay is sharper than can be expected for a debut and has a lot to say about hot topics like the objectification of women and sexual addiction, and its efforts are commendable. The film delivers a strong message that by the end, really sticks. Unlike previous efforts that have focused on similar topics though, such as Steve McQueen’s Shame, Don Jon never takes itself too seriously. It’s racy and definitely R-rated, but it’s also light and comedic, often times proving itself to be laugh out loud funny.
Despite a few pitfalls here and there (an ending that’s a bit too abrupt, the under-development of Julianne Moore’s character, a couple predictable plot beats), Don Jon is a charming little film and one that marks one hell of a debut for Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a writer and director. It balances comedy with drama perfectly and never strays too far into raunchy sex comedy territory, instead offering up an honest and sincere tale – one that has a real heart and soul to it.