Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his writing and directing debut with Don Jon and also takes the lead role – so he was certainly busy. You have to wonder whether he thought his previous movies didn’t have enough sex scenes, so he wrote himself a movie where he got loads of them, and where he also had the chance to buff up to show off a very impressive physique. (I’m sure those weren’t his motivations though).
The movie follows Gordon-Levitt’s Jon, known as Don Jon to his friends due to his ability to pull a different woman every week. He’s certainly not lacking the ability to get a succession of luscious ladies into his bed, but for him actual sex can’t hold a candle to porn. With pornography you don’t have to worry about anyone else’s thoughts and feelings, you won’t have to agree to positions or things you don’t personally enjoy all that much, and the only thing you have to worry about is whether things will be ruined by the video cuting to a shot of the guy at the moment you climax (straight guys are weird).
Jon’s love of porn has come to the verge of addiction, ensuring that he soon tires of any real woman he dates. Living, breathing people can’t give him the one-sided, instant gratification he can find on his computer. Realising this may be a problem, Jon sets out to find a more satisfying sex life, getting involved with two women. First there’s Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a forthright woman who offers Jon much of what he desires, but won’t put up with any lies about his porn habit. Then there’s Esther (Julianne Moore), who’s willing to talk to Jon about his issues and challenge him, as well as fulfilling many of his sexual desires.
A movie about porn addiction could easily have been either overly self-serious or have treated the whole thing as a ridiculous joke. However Don Jon smartly plots a path that treats Jon’s issues as real and that the reasons behind them are understandable, but also ensures there are some decent laughs and an attempt to genuinely entertain.
Gordon-Levitt’s bright but relatively simple shooting style allows the movie to breeze along, initially pulling you into Jon’s sex and porn filled existence, with a voiceover where he goes deep into just what he does and doesn’t like about both real sex and its virtual counterpart. It’s done wittily and with a fair bit of titillation, but also has some serious points to make. The film’s main issue is that once these points are made it doesn’t have too much more to say. Jon learns some life lessons from his relationships with Esther and Barbara but they’re slightly clichéd lessons, even if they sometimes have the veneer of something new.
It certainly doesn’t ruin the movie, but it does mean it perhaps isn’t all it could have been, especially when it heads towards an ending that feels neater and more sentimental than what has led up to it. There’s a lot to enjoy anyway, including some good performance and plenty of humour.
The Blu-ray picture brings out what a beautifully lit (sometime verging on hyper-real) film it is, and also offers a decent selection of special features. There’s a variety of featurettes looking at the making of the movie, with Gordon-Levitt on hand to give a frank account of the film from the initial idea through the shooting and release. It’s an interesting selection and everyone’s enthusiasm is rather infectious.
Overall Verdict: Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows he may have a strong future as a director with an entertaining and surprisingly funny film about porn addiction.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac