Joseph Gordon-Levitt's promising directorial debut is about a man obsessed with porn
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has already directed several short films but Don Jon sees this likeable and versatile actor take the helm of his first full feature – and he proves himself a multi-tasker by penning the screenplay and performing in the lead role. It begins as a raucous (if fairly mainstream) romantic comedy before eventually evolving into a more thoughtful indie drama.
Gordon-Levitt plays New Jerseyite Jon, a bartender, churchgoer, womaniser and – first and foremost for the purposes of this film – porn junkie. His friends nickname him 'Don Jon' in reference to his success with the opposite sex and yet for all his ostensible prowess, real sex is for him unsatisfying. Real women? Well they're simply disposable – he beds them, sheds them and out comes the laptop. All that changes when Jon meets lady in red Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a woman used to getting what she wants, who's not going to compete for his attention with a virtual vice.
Gordon-Levitt shows promise as a director and his debut has bags of cinematic swagger. Yet between the laughs, bravado and fun cameos it's hard not to notice that the characters he's created are pretty awful and spending time in their company can be trying. If Jon and his pals are obnoxious, pushy princess Barbara isn't much better and for most of the duration Julianne Moore's Esther (an older woman Jon befriends at night school) is the film's only truly interesting, non-stereotypical character. If Gordon-Levitt has ambitions to send-up and unpick lad culture then this is hugely undermined by the amount of time he spends revelling in it. When he finally adopts a more investigatory and sensitive approach to the subject matter this seems tacked-on and jarringly out of sorts with what's come before.
Reviewed at London Film Festival 2013. General release from Fri 15 Nov.