Don Jon is about porn. But it’s also really not about porn.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the most likeable guys in Hollywood. That said, he does his best to make us forget that in Don Jon, his directorial debut which he also wrote and stars in. He plays the eponymous Jon, a brash, aggressive, church-going New Jersey-ite who’s addicted to the gym, pulling women and watching porn. Not exactly 10 Things I Hate About You…
Don Jon on the surface, might seem like just another product of the sex-obsessed world we live in – Shame, Thanks for Sharing, virtually every music video – but it’s actually the opposite of that. Jon’s opening monologue sets the tone for what the film actually is: a satiric commentary on the sexualisation of everyday life and modern society’s tendency to objectify people.
As much as I love Gordon-Levitt (how could you not?), Don Jon could be in danger of becoming a one-man show. His direction keeps the film always-lively, while his script is often laugh-out-loud funny. It’s Julianne Moore’s performance as night-school student Esther that really lifts the film, for me. Alongside an almost disturbingly-convincing Gordon-Levitt, Moore brings a signature mix of vulnerability and strong personality to a surprising character.
Scarlett Johansson, as ‘perfect dime’ Barbara, pulls off a New Jersey accent while seeming to be constantly chewing gum, which is a feat in itself. Buoyed by a great collective cast performance and some snappy editing, this is an entertaining film that is intellectual without being boring, and political without being controversial or stuffy.
It’s a testament to the reputation Gordon-Levitt has built up over his 20-year film career that he was able to attract big names to this relatively small-budget film: along with Moore and Johansson, Don Jon benefits from the acting talents of Anne Hathaway, Channing Tatum, Tony Danza and Brie Larson.
You could watch Don Jon to see Gordon-Levitt’s directing, to see a clever film about the media’s influence, for a stellar Julianne Moore performance, to get a good (lecherous? satirical?) look at Johansson, or even just to watch some porn along with a whole room of people. Don Jon can be seen as a commentary on our sexualisation, or just a pretty good comedy with smart directing. Either way, you should probably check it out for yourself, as Gordon-Levitt fully announces himself as a triple threat on the movie scene.