(Long Island, N. Y.) Don Jon represents actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s writing and directing debut, and after watching the film, I can only say that he has tons of potential; however, it’s only glimpsed here and there amid long stretches of tedium and aimlessness.
The film is about a young Jersey Shore-wannabe named Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt), nicknamed “Don Jon” by his friends for his legendary abilities when it comes to meeting and bedding the ladies at the nightclub they frequent. Little do his friends know, however, that while Jon always manages to seal the deal, so to speak, he’d rather be watching internet porn on his laptop; in fact, he often slips out of bed after his latest sexual conquest has drifted off to sleep to satisfy himself watching videos on Pornhub.com.
And that’s the problem…years of watching porn has apparently warped Jon’s attitudes he’s by himself with a solid internet connection. But can someone actually be addicted to porn?
Despite not really seeing a problem, Jon nonetheless attempts to try something different by getting into a relationship with a floozy he meets at his club- Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), an attractive but vain and shallow woman who has a set agenda when it comes to a man, and sets out to mold Jon into that image. Despite that, Jon (thinks that he) falls in love for the first time in his life, but when the two finally have sex, it’s just as unfulfilling as before.
Not helping matters are his mother Angela (Glenne Headly), who is desperate for grandchildren, and his father Jon Sr. (Tony Danza), who…well, is just plain nuts. But a chance encounter with a strange older woman named Esther (Julianne Moore) at a night school class just might set Jon on the path to kicking the porn habit for good and finally connecting with a person for real.
Does Don Jon sound sappy and clichéd? It is and it isn’t. Underneath, it’s your typical romantic comedy about a guy who deviates from society’s narrow definition of “normal” and is forced to conform because being “normal” is equated to being “happy.” However, this is coated with a rough and unique veneer of internet porn addiction, something that is probably going to become a big problem in coming years due to the fact that it’s free and it’s pretty much damn near everywhere. So, Don Jon has a typical theme made more interesting by an interesting plot device.
However, for a comedy, Don Jon isn’t very funny. It made me smile several times, but the big laughs come not from Gordon-Levitt, Johansson, or Moore, but from the great Tony Danza, who plays Jon’s ultra-Italian father as a foul-mouthed, wifebeater-wearing nutcase; it’s a shame he wasn’t in the film more, as he steals every scene he’s in. Gordon-Levitt and Johansson do stand out in their performances, however, especially when it comes to their ultra-Jersey accents and attitudes, which come across as 100 percent authentic; it’s easy to buy into their characters, which helps you get into the story that much more.
But ultimately, Don Jon just kind of plods along without any real focus or humor. It’s entertaining in parts, and very well-made and directed, but it’s still a bland affair. Perhaps some clever editing could have tightened things up, but when the core of the movie isn’t very compelling, chopping out a scene or two here or there can only do just so much.
So, Don Jon is an interesting entry into feature-filmmaking by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and it’s a solid one for an amateur, but it’s just that- amateur.
He’s got the visuals and the acting covered…now he just needs to concentrate on improving his writing and I think he stands to be something to watch in years to come.