Gordon- Levitt’s debut showcases crackerjack editing skills, but Joe’s storytelling could use a little work.
2013 | 90 minutes | Dir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Relativity Media
After this kickass trailer for Don Jon hit the Internet last May, expectations were high.
Writer, director, and producer Joseph Gordon- Levitt stars as Jon, a twentysomething New Jersey playboy. Jon’s problem? He prefers porn to the real thing. Jon expects his world to change after meeting sexy Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson, in a role written for her). But not even Barbara’s “best- ever” T & A can break Jon up with his porn. Barbara is a princess and gives Jon a huge list of demands ranging from “take a class at the community college” to “quit cleaning your own apartment”.
The community college thing leads Jon to Esther (Julianne Moore). After Esther catches Jon watching porn on his phone, she starts this nice/ slightly creepy motherly/ role model thing. She buys Jon some “artful” porn and lets him vent his feelings over some hash in the backseat of her Jeep. Eventually Esther and Jon start a sexual relationship and **SPOILER ALERT** she helps Jon kick his porn habit for real. This causes the film’s resolution, but it feels weird. Partly because Julianne Moore looks old enough to be John’s mom, partly because she has no chemistry with Joe, but mostly because this plot development happens when the movie is almost over. Even though Esther has been around for almost the entire movie, her transformation from annoying antagonist to sex goddess happens overnight and makes no sense.
This film is not a romantic comedy from a man’s perspective, like 500 Days of Summer. This isn’t even a movie about a two- person relationship. This is a movie about porn addiction. The film tries to show how good sex (not love, just good sex) is a two- way street, and, obviously, much better than porn. Jon’s one- sided relationship with porn shows only one example of unsatisfying one- sided relationships.
The overtly sexual nature of the film surprised me. If you ever suspected that men think about sex all the time, this movie proves you right. I expected a little bit more of a heart to go with this movie’s whopping package. At times, the scenes felt like The Young Adult Male’s Manual for Perfect Sex. Informative, for sure, and fun too, but necessary? Not so much.
In most other aspects, though, Don Jon thrills, entertains, and bounces along. Gordon- Levitt, who honed his video editing skills at Columbia College, has great timing. Don Jon bops along like a pop song. Gordon- Levitt repeats things like trips to confession and his porn routine like hooks. Don Jon has a rhythm unlike any movie you’ve ever seen on the big screen. It’s kind of a polished YouTube style of filmmaking. From a technical standpoint, Don Jon wins as an edgy, confident, groundbreaking experiment. From a storytelling standpoint, it’s about one man’s libido. And that kind of works too.