Joseph Gordon-Levitt flexes his directing muscle, writing muscle, acting muscle and….uhhh….his muscle. Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut is a surprisingly honest, albeit risqué, romantic comedy. Don Jon is a bold undertaking by the new filmmaker, but like his character Jon Martello, Gordon-Levitt embodies confidence and expects success.
Jon “the Don” Martello is molded from guido clay. He enjoys working out, he maintains a stylish wardrobe and pad, he loves women and maintains a meticulous routine. Jon is also a faithful Catholic and porn addict. Jon indulges in on-line pornography even after his nightly sexual experiences with the hottest girls, because he does not receive adequate fulfillment from intercourse. It all changes when Jon meets the woman of his dreams, a “perfect dime” named Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson, The Avengers). Unlike most of the women he meets, he treats Barbara as “the long game”, the one you bring home to mom (Glenn Headley) and dad (a hilarious Tony Danza). However, Barbara knows she is a catch and often manipulates Jon to change his habits, including swearing off porn and suggesting he enroll in classes. It’s in class we meet Esther (Julianne Moore, Crazy, Stupid, Love), an older woman who happens to catch Jon sneaking in some porn on his phone. The unlikely friends help each overcome their habits and losses to form an intrinsic bond.
Gordon-Levitt makes a bold an honest movie out of Don Jon, claiming men and women ruin their relationships when unable to let go of their notions that the opposite sex should act like the actresses in porn or the men in romantic film. It’s not a particularly convincing statement on its own, though it may spark conversation, which is where JGL may have been shooting. He brings us along for Martello’s transformation from narcissistic womanizer, to appealing and likable meatball, and it’s an effective character study in that regard as well. Julianne Moore and Scarlett Johansson deliver wonderful performances completely outside of their comfort zones and Tony Danza is surprisingly, perfectly cast in this role. Recommended viewing for couples.