Joseph Gordon-Levitt all pumped up to look like a JerseyShore boy --- not bad. Put him together with Scarlett Johansson in very short, very tight dresses, snapping her gum, and you have quite a pair. Such was the look Gordon-Levitt was going for when he wrote "Don Jon" with Johansson in mind, about a Jersey guy who works hard at staying in shape, goes to mass every Sunday, and loves his family --- oh, and by the way, he also loves porn.
Let's begin by stating this is not a film for everyone. It isn't "R" rated because of violence, that's for sure. Jon Martello, or Don Jon as his friends call him because he's so popular with the girls, is addicted to porn. It doesn't matter how many times he has sex with a girl, he's right back at his computer satisfying himself with pornography --- nasty pornography (is there any other kind?).
Jon hangs out at the local clubs on Saturday nights, and usually leaves with the girl of his choosing. That is until he meets a very hot blond. She puts him off, he finds out she is Barbara Sugarman (Johansson), they date --- no sex --- she meets his family, he meets hers --- then finally the big night. But after they have sex, Jon is right back in his favorite spot where Barbara catches him. She is appalled --- he promises to stop. Which, of course, doesn't happen.
Meanwhile, in an effort to improve himself for Barbara, Jon begins night classes at a local community college where he is caught watching porn on his phone by fellow student Esther (Julianne Moore). She has a secret of her own, which explains why Jon finds her crying one night outside their classroom. Though initially Jon wants nothing to do with Esther, in the end it is their friendship that changes his life.
Gordon-Levitt worked on this film for four years. He enlisted help from a few of his industry friends, such as Christopher Nolan and Rian Johnson, both of whom he has worked with on films. Both offered him tips on writing and directing. Doing it all is an ominous undertaking, and Gordon-Levitt succeeds blissfully. And though the pornography is rather graphic, the screenplay is very funny.
Adding to the fun is the supporting cast of Tony Danza as Jon's dad, Glenne Headly as his mother, and Brie Larson portrays his silent sister, whose only line is priceless. It's not side-splitting humor, but some of the scenes are extremely amusing. I particularly cracked up when Barbara tells Jon not talk about cleaning his apartment. The guy is a clean freak, kind of like me, and he loves cleaning his bachelor pad. But Barbara finds it decidedly NOT sexy and requests that he not speak of it. I know it's in the previews, but it is pretty darn hilarious.
"Don Jon" is for mature audiences only. If you can handle the porn, go see this movie, if for nothing else than to experience how very talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt truly is.
Opinion: See It Now! (but be warned)
Some movie fans may not care for the subject matter of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's feature length writing/directorial debut, but despite many of its far-fetched sequences, "Don Jon" is hugely entertaining. JG-L plays Jon Martello, a New Jersey 30-something bartender who worships his car, his body and his sex life --- not necessarily in that order.
Along with his best buddies, Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke), the trio frequent their favorite club where Don Jon, as his friends call him, makes it look ridiculously easy to pick up the hottest girl in the place, make out with her on the nearest couch, and take her home for actual sex. The only problem is that Jon prefers internet porn, for autoerotic purposes, to flesh-and-blood women. As a result, he rarely sees the same female twice, and forms no lasting relationships.
This routine repeats itself over and over, a la "Groundhog Day". To pay for his "sins", Jon continually runs up the steps of his church, confesses to his priest, and does penance in the form of "Hail Mary's".
But one fateful night at the club, Jon espies Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) on a bar stool. Supremely confident, he makes a play for her, and while its obvious she's interested, she doesn't make it easy for him. Johansson's character is a slick talking, gum-chewing New Jersey "dame" who happens to be beautiful and sexy. Johansson's performance is a hoot, a throwback to the sirens of the forties.
Meanwhile, at an adult ed class, Esther (Julianne Moore), an older woman (40-something is older in this context), foists herself unwanted on Jon. She's a bit of a nuisance and appears daffy, but there's something about her that Jon eventually finds appealing. When Jon's relationship with Barbara runs into trouble, the movie takes an unexpected turn.
Gordon-Levitt is in buff shape, and with his hair fixed like a juvenile delinquent from the 50's, plus his Jersey accent, he is hysterically funny. Jon Martello is not a bad guy, just a cocky and arrogant one who needs a femme fatale like Barbara to tame his wild side. His father, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza, great as the Italian paterfamilias), tries unsuccessfully to discipline him, which brings to mind the priceless family dinner scenes.
JG-L's script never reveals where his film is headed. It's a pleasing combination of comedy and drama, and the lead actors are all pros who know how to hold an
audience's rapt attention. With "Don Jon", Joseph Gordon-Levitt has firmly cemented his place among Hollywood's elite.
Opinion: See It Now!