In addition to starring, Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his debut as a writer/director with ‘Don Jon’. At its core, the movie shows a simple man’s transition from an unlikable sex-obsessed douchebag into a somewhat friendlier human being capable of having meaningful relationships. The film is quite fun, but also often repetitive.
Jon (Levitt) is a young man in his early 30s who bartends at a trendy night club in New Jersey. When he isn’t working, he and his greased-back hair work out at the gym, meticulously clean his apartment, watch football with his two friends, and try to have sex with a different girl (who must always rank above an 8 on his hotness scale of 1-10) every day. As he narrates throughout the course of the film, he’s very successful at this.
Oh yes, there’s one more thing. Jon is completely obsessed with watching porn, an activity he does more than once a day. He tells us that porn is and always will be better than the real thing. As he lists his many reasons for this, his speech is interspersed with actual porn footage. Jon has a bad temper too, and doesn’t make friends other than his lifetime buds, who just want to see what hot girl he’ll score with next.
Then, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) walks into the club, and of course she’s a dynamite knockout from top to bottom. But then she speaks, and an unbelievable Jersey accent comes out and ruins everything – except to Jon, of course.
Jon puts his best moves on Barbara, but she doesn’t budge, at least for a while. She wants to be wined and dined over the course of a month or so first, and Jon is hell-bent on this conquest. However, he’s never experienced love, and thinks that Barbara is the one, even though she manipulates him into doing things for her in return for sex. Everything comes to a head when she finds out about his porn obsession, which hasn’t slowed down a bit since their exclusive dating. Barbara is so horrified by this that she screams, runs and never comes back.
Jon attends school to become something more than a bartender. There, he meets Esther (Julianne Moore), an older widow who’s a free spirit and takes a liking to him. She even figures out a way to get through to him about his selfish ways. She gives him a vintage ’70s porn to watch, so that he can see the error of his ways and maybe change his thoughts on women and himself.
Some of the best scenes in the movie take place at Jon’s parent’s house, during the weekly family dinners. His dad (Tony Danza) is not above cursing at everyone at the dinner table, and must have the football game on at all times, even when people are talking. Danza shines in this role and garners quite a few laughs.
This is a good first film for Levitt, and he can only improve from here. He’s brilliant as Jon shows his struggle between his two personalities. As a director, Levitt’s camerawork won’t win any awards. He tells the story straight, yet repeats himself often. On the other hand, the payoff is good enough in the end to make you glad that you watched the film.