Joseph Gordon-Levitt "dons" interesting new role
Actor's directorial debut makes good start, leaves room for improvement
Joseph Gordon-Levitt can do no wrong in Hollywood right now. In the past four years alone, he has bagged leading roles in big-name movies including “(500) Days of Summer,” “Inception,” “Looper” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”
With his recent on-screen successes, the actor has decided to try his luck behind the camera with an offbeat love story, “Don Jon.” In addition to writing the screenplay, he stars in the film alongside Scarlett Johansson and seasoned veterans Julianne Moore and Tony Danza.
Gordon-Levitt plays Jon Martello, a guido from New Jersey whose friends call him “Don” because of his habit of having one-night stands with beautiful women. He has a strict routine based on the only things he says he cares about in life: his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and his porn. Despite going home with “eights or nines” on a nightly basis, Jon can only find true satisfaction in pornography.
Enter Barbara Sugarman (Johansson) stage left. Jon decides to give up his life of fast girls and pursue Barbara, whom he believes is a perfect 10. They begin a relationship, and she seems just as enamored with romantic movies as he does with porn. She convinces Jon to go back to school and doesn’t have sex with him until more than a month into their relationship.
Ultimately, Jon is left with the task of balancing Barbara, everything else he “cares” about in life and his new friendship with his classmate Esther (Moore).
This movie has charm and wit, and it manages to make watching pornography a means to self-discovery. The parallels that Gordon-Levitt draws between men’s fascination with porn and women’s enamorment with romantic movies is refreshing and compelling. It draws awareness to the objectification of women and media’s distortion of love, sex and romance. The sexual content is a little much at times, certainly justifying its R rating — previously an NC-17 rating.
Gordon-Levitt’s overly macho demeanor and New Jersey accent match well with Johansson’s New York accent and matter-of-fact attitude. However, Moore’s quirky performance makes me question the casting choice. The relationship between her and Gordon-Levitt’s character has remnants of B-grade movies like “In the Land of Women” and “Alfie.” Her role in the movie is predictable and a bit forced at times, but her character is a necessary agent in Jon’s epiphany.
The movie’s tagline is, “Everyone loves a happy ending.” Sure enough, the ending is happy, but the overall delivery is mediocre — leaving the audience rather less so. The film is ultimately probably worth watching. The script is simple, but effective, and there is something for everyone: family, religion, romance, comedy and Gordon-Levitt singing “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark. I welcome Gordon-Levitt to the directorial scene, but hope his future projects prove a little more engaging.