Don Jon is officially the most unbelievable movie of the year simply because Joseph Gordon-Levitt tries to convince us someone would rather masturbate feverishly than bone Scarlett Johansson, but hey, that’s why movies are fantasy and not real life. Well played JGL, well played.
Ok, serious time though. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon is a hilarious endeavor when considering this was the goofy kid who played the youngest child on 3rd Rock From The Sun. Once you get past that oddity, JGL’s debut feature is a unique little charmer about a strange sexual addiction, letting Gordon-Levitt himself explore a character no one could have predicted. I absolutely love that JGL is embracing all sorts of roles, previously with projects like Hesher, and now with the lovable Jersey Guido named Jon.
Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loves certain things in his life. His pad, his car, his body, his girls, his porn. Yes, for Jon there’s no satisfaction like a little self-pleasure, until he meets his dreamgirl in Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a goodie-goodie princess who slows down Jon’s typically accelerated lifestyle. But when Jon is faced with a choice, either ditch his love for porn or ditch Barbara, Jon struggles with trying to balance both. Can Jon focus on the stunning girl in his life and delete the pornography? If he wants to keep Barbara around, he’s going to have to.
Don Jon isn’t exactly a family movie, as we’re subjected to a sensory overload of pornography and sexual intercourse, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives one of his most confident, off-the-wall characters to date. Jon’s situation portrays an unconventional story about self-discovery and discipline, spending half the movie plowing his way through girls or partying with his own disco stick. JGL embraces his sexual machismo though, dropping the usual witty charm for the outspoken meathead type of game. He’s loud, cocky, aggressive, and a little bit of a bad boy – all things we’re not really used to seeing Gordon-Levitt be. That’s what makes this role so fun for him, which is readily apparent while we watch his character Jon. JGL’s attitude is infectious and hilarious, winning over our hearts while playing the equivalent of a modern-day caveman.
Gordon-Levitt also makes a brilliant comparison between those lovey-dovey, romantic dramas that glamorize Hollywood relationships, which are typically just as fake as the porno men so desperately want to happen in real life. JGL has been making a name by participating in off-beat romantic dramadies (500 Days Of Summer), and Don Jon is no different.
Jon is a man who loves himself, and finds self-satisfaction infinitely more pleasurable (working out/obsessively cleaning), while Barbara is a Jersey princess who wants everything to be perfect – like the movies. Their relationship is established comically in the beginning though, as Gordon-Levitt turns Don Jon into somewhat of a cheesy romantic comedy of its own, cuing up stereotypical rom-com music, stopping time so the two can kiss – all that gushy jazz. Of course, then he provides the trashy contrast of full-blown pornography and a brilliant, funny, entertaining connection is made. Men fantasize about sex while women fantasize about love – a time bomb waiting to explode.
Chalk up some phenomenal supporting work from Jon’s family, as father Jon Sr. (Tony Danza), mother Angela (Glenne Headly), and sister Monica (Brie Larson) nail that hometown Italian family feel. Jon Sr. can be found sitting in front of a football game at all times, even during dinner, Angela begs Jon for a grandchild, and Monica never says a word because she’s frantically texting away. I wouldn’t say Jon’s family is dysfunctional, but their wonderful little cliches only enhance Jon’s characteristics.
Scarlett is another story though, as I’m not sure if I loved her character Barbara. Johansson sports her best Housewives Of New Jersey accent, and pairing that with a strong, demanding personality, she absolutely fit the part. Sure, being a Jersey boy myself, I never knew any girls to be like Barbara, not until I moved to Long Island for a few years, but ScarJo fit Gordon-Levitt’s world, tormenting him with her smouldering sexuality. But the games they play run thin, and their arguments were rather ridiculous, and while I fully understand that was the point, Barbara became a bit of an on-screen nuisance.
In short – don’t go see Don Jon with your parents or any religious figures. The non-stop parade of pornographic imagery defines Jon’s personality, and will be a bit much for pruder minds, but there’s still plenty of charm found throughout Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s smutty romantic comedy, more telling about the man himself than the relationship he pursues. Not a conventional love story by any means, but you can’t really go wrong with Jospeh Gordon-Levitt these days, and as a director, his first feature film provides a satisfying money shot.
Unconventional in the best ways, Don Jon is a charmingly smutty story about a man, his porn, and a much deeper struggle within.