Let’s all be honest for a moment: Who doesn’t like porn? Whenever you need a quick fix or a titilating moment to yourself, porn is available right at your fingertips. However, like all good things, too much of it could prove to be detrimental in the long run. Using porn as a metaphor for society’s obsession with looks and surface level interaction, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s written/directorial debut, Don Jon, crafts a film that is sexy, entertaining, and smart enough to raise the bar on what makes a romantic-comedy good.
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Release Date: September 27, 2013
Gordon-Levitt stars as the titular Jon Martello, a typical Jersey Shore-esque man who is admired and hailed by his friends for his ability to pick up girls with little to no effort. However, despite his surface-level gifts, he yearns for something more… something that can be as fulfilling as the type of sex he sees in the hours of porn he spends watching on a daily basis. Even after he meets “the most beautiful thing [he’s] ever seen,” the lovely Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), the sex between them still leaves him wanting more. However, when his addiction threatens to ruin their budding relationship, he finds help from the most unlikely of sources: an older woman in one of his classes (Julianne Moore).
On the surface, Don Jon may come off as the typical rom-com where the protagonist finds himself, changes his ways, and lives happily ever after. Does that end up happening? …sort of. However, this is JGL at the helm of the film. The layers of subtlety sprinkled throughout Don Jon are enough to cater to any cinephile who over-analyzes every film they watch (myself included), while that same thematic depth isn’t overbearing for those disinterested in reading the film like a book.
Gordon-Levitt touches on some of these much deeper themes, such as the “stereotypical” portrayal of masculinity and how men feel as if they have to live up to such expectations, as well as a look at unrealistic depictions of sex in porn and how “real” sex is nowhere like the fantasy sex displayed online. However, Gordon-Levitt uses comedy and humor to address these issues. The biggest theme found within Don Jon is society’s obsession with looks and the surface level of everything. Take, for example, Jon’s relationship with Barbara. On the surface, they are two very attractive people who, because of how they look, ought to work things out with one another for the sake of it. However, as Jon realizes as the film goes on, there’s more to a relationship than just how a girl looks or how good the sex is. What results is a smart (probably the smartest) rom-com that isn’t heavy-handed.
Sometimes, the move from being in front of the camera to behind the camera can be hard, but with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s many years in the business, the transition was fine-tuned. From the editing to the acting to the script, Don Jon just feels like a labor of love. I hope and pray Gordon-Levitt acts for the rest of his life, but if he ever does decide to permanently move behind the camera, Don Jon is proof that he’ll be perfectly fine in the director’s seat.
Score: 8 out of 10