Guys and porn: it’s a topic that’s ripe with potential, and it’s brilliantly deconstructed in Don Jon, a surprisingly fantastic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in which the star also makes his feature film directing (and screenwriting) debut.
In front of the camera, Levitt is across-the-board excellent in Don Jon. He breathes a ton of likeability into a role that could have been anything but in the hands of a lesser actor. Visibly inspired by Jersey Shore, his Jon is a hilarious porn-obsessed Casanova who falls for the girl of his dreams, but still can’t shake off his addiction. Behind the lens, Levitt proves himself equally adept in staging a range of compelling sequences, while utilizing repetition to emphasize the film’s motifs. I was particularly amused by Don’s obsessive visits to confession, and his devotion to Hail Mary’s to repent for his many sins (masturbation, pre-marital sex etc…).
Most impressively, Don Jon is a spectacular showcase for Scarlett Johansson. I won’t lie – I’ve often found the actress to be extremely overrated. But here, the gorgeous star delivers an exceptional performance in the role of Jon’s toxic girlfriend, Barbara Sugarman. Johansson captures a plethora of incredible nuances throughout (she’s likeable yet demanding), and she’s the film’s standout performer by far. If there’s one thing you’re going to remember about Don Jon, it’s Johansson’s first-rate performance. Color me majorly impressed.
As for the film’s supporting cast, I wasn’t too impressed by Tony Danza’s turn as Jon’s father. I get what they were going for with the stereotypical Italian dad, but his role was far from subtle. Julianne Moore however, is terrific as a quirky student Jon meets during his night classes. I won’t spoil the duo’s dynamic, but their chemistry is pleasant and they bounce off each other perfectly. In addition, there’s a thematic resonance to their bond that supplies the film with a ton of weight as it reaches its climax.
A witty, charming and ultimately satisfying tale that’s both relevant and memorable. If this is the kind of work Mr. Levitt intends on bringing to the big screen, then he’s surely cemented himself as a talent to watch. Highly recommended.