Friday, 29 August 2014

Don Jon (2013)

When a film is both written, and directed, by the lead actor then I'd say that it's acceptable to have some hesitation about just what you're letting yourself in for. Thankfully, when the main man is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who seems to exude natural cool ever since he stopped being just the little guy in comedy roles, then that hesitation is unwarranted. It may be his feature directorial debut, but you wouldn't know it from the end result.

Don Jon isn't really what you might expect if you've already seen the trailer. Gordon-Levitt plays Jon, a man who can get with a different girl every night thanks to his charm and good looks. He's also addicted to porn. That becomes a problem when he falls for the gorgeous Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). Can he change his ways and become a better man?

Okay, by describing the movie in the way I have, I've just done it the same disservice as the trailer. So many people, myself included, thought that this was a movie about a man addicted to porn. That's part of it, but it's actually not the main part, even when it seems to be.

Don Jon is about sex and love. It's actually, underneath the porn clips and excessive masturbation, a standard rom-com for guys. Every box is ticked: family tensions, class issues, personal development, good friends, a need for guidance. As well as that standard stuff, the film looks at the hypocrisy of those who view good sex (or porn) as something sinful. Whether it's the church, doling out punishments that somehow don't seem to fit "the crime", or the whole environment surrounding the main character, bombarding him with advertising images that appeal to the part of him that leads to him turning on his computer and getting his computer to turn him on.

Gordon-Levitt is great in the lead role, all about the pleasures of the flesh with little seeming to go on in his mind. Some may find his performance irritating, but I warmed to him after the first few scenes. Johansson puts in a good performance. It's far from her best, although she's entirely believable as a damn sexy woman who makes a man want to change his ways for the better. Julianne Moore is another main character, despite not appearing until almost halfway through the movie. She's pretty good, but her performance feels a lot like a medley of her previous "greatest hits". Elsewhere, Tony Danza and Glenne Headly are wonderful as Jon's parents, Brie Larson plays a character who spends most of her time texting on her phone, but makes an impact with her one main moment of clarity, and Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke are lively and fun as friends of the main character, appropriately disappointed when he takes himself off the market and stops joining them for their big nights out.

It may be far from perfect, but Gordon-Levitt shows a lot of skill while wearing a number of different hats (and, dammit, I bet he could even do that literally - the man is just THAT cool). I've always tended to enjoy his acting performances, but now I will watch with interest to see what he decides to write and/or direct next. And I hope others do the same.


You can help me to convince my loved ones that I don't spend all of my time online looking at porn by investing in my bargain movie guide. Ohhhhhhhhh yes.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

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