Don Jon: Joseph Golden-Rabbit’s cheerful fap flick

September 27, 2013

Don Jon
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Rating: R,for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use
Running Time: 90 minutes

By Dan Lybarger

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the sort of donjonNew Jersey mook who’s oddly likable even though it’s obvious his life is going nowhere. Maybe it’s because he seems content with his lot. He makes a decent living tending bar. He has a sweet ride. He lifts weights as if he’s auditioning for Jersey Shore. He’s serious about going to church every week. He can also take just about any woman in a club home to be with him. When he bluntly states his intentions, many of the ladies are charmed by how forthright he is about his lust.

As we quickly discover, Jon has one affliction that might just scare off potential lovers. Maybe if Jon were played by an actor other than Gordon-Levitt (who also wrote and directed this film), audiences would run, too. Despite being in his early 30s, Gordon-Levitt projects a boyish appeal that makes his characters’ occasionally reprehensible behavior easier to stomach. In Jon’s case, his secret is as odious as it is pathetic.

It seems Don Jon, as his pals dub him, is chronically addicted to pornography and thinks that none of the women he has slept with compare to his on-screen honeys.

Even though he’s falling for the gorgeous Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), the proliferation of suggestive images surrounding Jon is hard to pass up. Even his phone offers visual delights real girls could never realistically offer.

While much of the humor comes from Jon’s attempts to dump the dirty videos, his tries are as frequent as they are ineffective. Thankfully, Gordon-Levitt has more on his mind than simply ridiculing Jon. His father (a delightfully over-the-top Tony Danza) spends dinner conversation with Jon’s mother (Glenne Headly) staring at football games. His sister Monica (Brie Larson) texts unseen recipients while all of that is going on and doesn’t stop even for Mass.

At least, Jon treats some things as sacred.

As someone who has embraced social media and used it effectively in real life, Gordon-Levitt is hardly a Luddite but seems keenly aware that real people require compromises and challenges the folks onscreen never do. Even the seemingly level-headed Barbara indulges in sappy romantic comedies where the leading man (played by an uncredited Channing Tatum) is too good for a flesh-and-blood male to match. This tiny bit of satire alone is worth the price of admission.

Having successfully passed for a younger version of Bruce Willis, a cancer patient and a mentally challenged patsy in The Lookout, it’s a given that Gordon-Levitt can transform himself into a gym rat. As a director, he also wisely shares the spotlight. Julianne Moore plays an older woman who discovers Jon’s embarrassing private habits and seems somewhat amused by them. It’s a small role, but effortlessly dominates every scene she’s in.

It’s fitting that Jon is devoutly Catholic. Gordon-Levitt may not yet be a filmmaker good enough to make smut seem appealing, but he does cleverly remind us how seductive the big and small screens can be. At times it’s too bad the voids we have in ourselves can’t be filled by a sheet of glowing glass.

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