WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a bit of a womaniser. He’s certainly charming, a cool guy, with the perfect clothes and the perfect flat and has no trouble attracting the hottest women. But he finds that none of them can match the magic of the sex he sees in porn films.
This doesn’t bother him too much, as he can bounce easily enough from woman to woman and can always resort to some internet porn once he gets home – or sends that night’s conquest home.
But when he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), everything changes. His friends agree that she’s by far the most attractive and alluring woman he’s met and her insistence that they wait before having sex just makes her seem all the more exciting. For the first time in his life, Jon is a one-woman man.
But once their relationship fully blossoms, he begins to struggle; she’s gorgeous, she’s perfect, if a little controlling – but he just can’t get over his need for porn.
It’s only a friendship with Esther (Julianne Moore), an older woman on his college course, that finally helps him come to terms with what’s really important to him and how to get it.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows himself to be a surprisingly confident and competent auteur, following – and it might be a little early to say this after just one film – the likes of Woody Allen as a writer, director and star.
On one level, Don Jon is a romantic comedy about relationship problems between young adults with issues – which could be said of so many films – but this one ticks the first two boxes, for starters; it’s romantic and it’s funny. It’s also touching, warm and, most unusually, incisive.
Gordon-Levitt has written a mature script with fully rounded characters – from the three leads to delightful turns from Jon’s family, courtesy of Tony Danza, Glenne Headly and Brie Larson – and his direction neatly structures the narrative into a coherent, believable and emotionally painful story.
Interestingly, he tries to draw moral comparisons between a man who enjoys his porn films and a woman who takes her romance movies a little too seriously.
Gordon-Levitt himself is commanding as the central character, torn between his desire for love, his need for excitement and his Catholic guilt. It’s particularly impressive that he can turn Jon – a charming womaniser who’s addicted to porn – into such a sympathetic screen presence. Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore effectively portray two ends of the emotional spectrum, leading him on a journey that audiences will want to take with him to find out where it ends.
He employs a little cinematic short-hand from time to time, not least the simplicity of his best friends – one black, one hispanic – but it didn’t detract from what turned out to be a smart message and skilful storytelling.