DON JON, 2013
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lindsey Broad, Scarlett Johansson
Review by Joshua Starnes
The journey of a contemporary, porn-addicted Don Juan-type as he attempts to become less selfish.
Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) only cares about a few things in life: keeping his apartment and car up to scratch, spending time with his family, getting to church on time and watching porn. A more grounded person might see a disconnect between those different concerns but not Jon. He's never really bothered to look below the surface of things, particularly himself.
A character study wrapped inside a pleasingly light souffle of a film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut dances back and forth between the line of substance with a sure and steady hand - too much and it's dreary, too little and it's hokey.
Mostly though it's just right, from Jon's explanation of his lifestyle and the nearly obsessive-compulsiveness of its routine to the interaction with his family which may well have been what made him this way. He does what he does - goes to the gym, cleans his apartment, goes to church, goes to Sunday dinner with his family, goes to confession - but he doesn't know why. All he knows is that he has always done so.
Gordon-Levitt's performance is just as on the money as his direction and in a fairly short time frame he has created a complete character out of ‘Don' Jon, a man with a full but empty life who doesn't realize it. He's simultaneously charming and annoying, a man who has leapt on screen from "Jersey Shore" and then become transformed into an introspective person.
But not by choice. After he hooks up with perfect 10 Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) he finds his life starting to change regardless of what he wants. He can't clean his own apartment, he can't watch the movies he likes, and he has to go to back to school so he can get a better job. He has to become the kind of man Barbara wants him to be, and what he wants doesn't really matter. Not being particularly introspective he doesn't really notice, until he realizes he also can't watch porn anymore.
Dancing on the line somewhere between comedy and drama, Gordon-Levitt never hammers his points home, choosing instead to layer in the different levels of personality and gaps in understanding between Jon and the people around him, not just Barbara but his parents as well. Doing everything in the same routine for their entire lives, and barely spending a minute even communicating with one another, it's no wonder Jon has turned out the way he has.
And as good as Gordon-Levitt is, it's the ensemble around him that really make "Don Jon's Addiction" work, especially the handful of peeks into his family life and the way he bounces off Tony Danza and Glenne Headley as his parents. The only, unfortunately, out of step character is Julianne Moore's Esther, an older classmate of Jon's who is meant to be something of a spoiler for his perfect life but comes across as a little too out of left field.
The entire last act to an extent feels like that. "Don Jon" doesn't want to be a standard romantic comedy with a pat conclusion, and to an extent it's not. Things don't climax, they just move on the way life does and for whatever conclusions Jon comes to about his life, they're just the beginnings of self-knowledge.
But if it's not completely satisfying, "Don Jon's Addiction" is very nearly so and is always engaging and entertaining. An inspiring debut from an interesting new director, it not only entertains on its own merits but leaves the viewer waiting to see what the encore will be.