'Don Jon' a spin on classic rom-com
As writer, director and star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves he is a triple threat in Hollywood with “Don Jon.”
Though he’s acted in countless pictures, this marks Gordon-Levitt’s feature-length film directorial and writing debut. The result can be considered an all-around success, a largely enjoyable experience even if it doesn’t deliver on all of its promises.
Jon Martello is a creature of habit, a 20-something Lothario who looks like he was birthed by the Jersey Shore itself. He goes to the gym (probably skipping leg day), keeps both his ride and his bachelor pad of an apartment in such spotless condition that it verges on neurotic, never misses Catholic Mass with his Italian family and goes to the club with his boys. His prowess with the opposite sex — he shoots them a look, and that’s all it takes — has earned him the nickname “Don” from his two buds. He doesn’t get attached to women. But Martello also has one more passion (read: addiction) that he doesn’t disclose to anyone: Internet pornography.
Let it be known that porn has a prominent presence in the movie. Don likes his porn more than sex with actual women because he is only truly able to “lose himself” when in front of a computer screen. For those who may find it uncomfortable, Martello’s object of addiction is only displayed to the audience in quick, jarring edits. Not every explicit detail is shown, but the movie gets about as close as possible to showing uncensored pornography.
One night at the club, though, Martello meets a “10” in Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), who won’t let him in her pants quite as easily as most girls. She’s gorgeous, and as far as Martello’s concerned, that’s what counts. The two start dating and, of course, complications occur.
In night school, Martello meets a quirky, much older woman, Esther (Julianne Moore), and the two gradually divulge their secrets to each other. Both women will end up teaching him, in one way or another, about love, making love and sex.
The movie derives its humor from the quirks of Martello’s life. At family dinner, his tit-for-tat, overly aggressive conversations with his dad, Jon Senior (an extremely funny Tony Danza), make for great scenes. Director Gordon-Levitt puts the film on the back of actor Gordon-Levitt, who effectively carries the entire picture.
Inspired camerawork shows Martello watching porn the same way his girlfriend Barbara watches romantic comedies: The screen lighting their wide eyes as they watch, wishing — or expecting — real life to follow suit. Martello wishes that women would be porn stars in bed, and Barbara wants a fairytale relationship.
Something fails to ring true in the third act of the movie, when Martello falls for Moore’s character. It is understood that this shows Martello’s development, but it is just too large of a pill to swallow given what’s been shown of Martello’s character thus far. The jump from shallow playboy to man falling in love with a widowed woman in her fifties feels forced.
But missing pieces aside, thanks to Gordon-Levitt, “Don Jon” is a fresh take on romantic flicks.
*Grade: B *