It’s hard not to love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He started out as your average adorable child actor and then rather than transitioning into fluff pictures he went indie, working on great films like Brick and The Lookout, building credibility and honing his acting skills. Now, after building a bank role with more mainstream fare he’s made the leap to writing and directing.
Turns out he’s pretty damn good at those too.
Addiction is a heavy topic at the best of times and porn addiction is maybe a little taboo for most folks. However, Don Jon tackles the subject in a fun and engaging way. The films title character is hopelessly addicted to porn. He goes to New Jersey clubs regularly and hooks up with a woman every time he does, however he watches porn every day and prefers it to sex.
One night at a club he meets Scarlett Johanssen’s Barbara and becomes enamoured of her. She is a jersey girl, through and through, with a plan of her own for him. Naturally, her plans and his addiction bring them to conflict.
At the same time he meets Julianne Moore’s Esther at a night class (which Barbara insists he take) who reaches out and offers him counselling on his addiction.
If you’re starting to guess at what character arc Jon goes through over the course of the movie –I’m not going to confirm or deny anything– you’re probably not wrong. That’s not a bad thing though because the way the story is told is engaging and sweet.
The supporting cast is pretty much perfect. Glenn Headly and Tony Danza play Jon’s parents, a fairly stereotypical Italian New Jersey family, to perfection and Brie Larson has a small but important role as Jon’s sister manages to be exactly what the film needs her to be.
The main cast is fantastic also, Johanssen is inspired as Barbara and her thick Jersey accent is pretty much perfect. Moore shines as always, able to be the sage to Jon’s hero and bring a lot of depth to her part.
Gordon-Levitt is charming and charismatic as Jon and shows of his acting chops as the story moves forward. The film is well shot and paced and the dialogue is smart, funny and endearing. This is actually a feat in and of itself as Jon objectifies basically everything in his life, not just women but cars and his apartment and even himself. He’s a character that we shouldn’t like however you can’t help but like him.
Don Jon is a film about addiction and change. It’s a film that features a great character story which is told in a unique voice and style. Any of this would be impressive from an unknown first time director. That this director is also one of our most talented young actors makes it all the more so.