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All words: Ross Bonaime

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been one of the most fascinating young talents to watch in modern cinema. He’s gone from child star to accomplished actor, working with such directors as Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg, to entrepreneur of his own company hitRECord. So the natural progression for Levitt had to be going behind the cameras to direct and write his own feature film, which comes in the form of Don Jon. Levitt also plays Jon, a Jersey boy who finds more pleasure in the abundance of porn he watches than over the 8’s and 9’s he picks up at bars every week.

Jon only has a few things in life he cares about, as the opening lays out: his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, and his porn. Yet it’s clearly the porn he cares about the much. In fact, even the start up noise of his Mac gets him harder than any girl can. But one night at the club out with his boys, he sees Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, who he tries to pick up and realizes it won’t be that easy. Before he can get her in bed, she wants to improve him and learn more about him. She wants to meet his family, his friends, have him go to night classes, etc. He’s all about the instant gratification, she’s all about the long run, which is why she gets so upset when she discovers Jon’s interest in porn and demands he stops looking at such disgusting things.

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Don Jon does deal with Jon’s addiction to pornography, but this ain’t exactly ShameDon Jon is more about creating an ideal of your life through what we see in media. Jon’s ideal of sex should be as great as what he sees in short clips online, which it will never be as good as. Barbara’s goal in a relationship is to live like one of the characters in the romantic comedies that she adores so much. Neither will ever succeed in exactly what they want because those things don’t exist. The only character that lives outside these expectations is Esther, played by Julianne Moore, who is a student with Jon. She’s a bit older and has seen the pains and realness of the world and lives in that rather than what she sees on screens.

Don Jon has a repetitive nature to it, which does add to Jon’s addictive personalities and habits. Week in, week out, Jon repeats the same activities. Even after meeting Barbara and he starts to change the smallest amount, his schedule remains largely the same. This repetition makes sense, but it does grow dull after a while, almost like the screenplay is making it a little easy for Levitt on his first go-around. However when we see Levitt behind his computer, where he is his own star, the editing becomes an almost Edgar Wright-ian flurry of fuck that shows the talent that could come from Levitt’s camera down the line.

But Don Jon does come off as much more obvious than it should be. The climax (no pun intended) can almost be figured out from act one, and the majority of the cast plays their parts like they’re in some sort of Jersey Shore parody. Levitt is fine as Jon, but he may be spreading himself too thin. It’s Scarlett Johansson that shines brightest here, using her sexuality in a much more amusing and self-aware way that enlivens the film.

Levitt’s goal in Don Jon seems to be this idea that living your life based too much on what you watch is a bad thing, which isn’t exactly breaking news. Surely Levitt knows what this feels like, as his star has risen significantly over the years, so has his image from fans into something that could never be reached realistically.

Levitt does have some talent behind the camera, especially when he’s not dealing in the monotony that Jon lives in, but next time he could probably use some help in the script department, as nothing ever really pops in the dialogue as anything more than cliché. Don Jon is simply an okay movie with an obvious message from a new filmmaker that could definitely have a promising future. But maybe next time, Levitt shouldn’t take on everything on his own for the best results.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuPXDuqicmo
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