In his directorial debut, Joseph Gordon-Levitt refreshes audiences with his unconventional romantic comedy “Don Jon,” which he also wrote and starred in as the lead.
Gordon-Levitt plays Jon Martello, Jr., a young, handsome man whose friends have nicknamed him “Don Jon” because of his impressive success with attracting beautiful women every weekend.
However, Jon finds himself much more satisfied by his obsession with Internet pornography than he does by any relationship he’s had.
Then he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), a woman equally dissatisfied by relationships as he, but for a slightly different reason — she refuses to settle for anything less than an absolute Prince Charming.
When Barbara rejects Jon’s initial offer for a one-night stand, he decides to pursue her and try to have a more conventional relationship.
Almost immediately, Barbara demands his submission to her every whim, from the idea that Jon shouldn’t clean his apartment because it isn’t manly, to her demand that Jon stop watching porn altogether.
She also convinces him to go to a community college, in an effort to get a job better than the one he currently has, which she believes isn’t good enough.
But when Barbara looks at Jon’s internet history and sees he’s still been obsessively watching porn, she dumps him.
What follows is an emotional rollercoaster for Jon — he still desires Barbara but is unwilling to change his habits, until he meets an older woman (Julianne Moore) in his classes, who opens his eyes to how false and one-sided the pornography he loves truly is.
Gordon-Levitt is well known as an actor, with roles in several blockbusters, including “(500) Days of Summer,” “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”
In his directorial debut, he proves that he’s more than a pretty face and that he has definitely learned a thing or two from the directors he’s worked with.
Most efforts of actor-turned-directors are iffy at best (think James Franco’s repeated attempts). Gordon-Levitt, however, jumps in with no fear and an impressive amount of confidence.
He perfectly balances acting and directing so that neither suffers for the other.
The script is full of witty and snappy dialogue, and an attitude that will appeal to a young adult audience.
But what makes the film great is its casting. Gordon-Levitt is sleazy but somehow sympathetic, Johansson is delightfully dislikable and Moore is mysterious but inviting.
For a film where one of the stars is obsessed with typical Hollywood romances, “Don Jon” is generally free of the more typical rom-com cliches.
The ending, in particular, is refreshingly unexpected.
The movie’s commentary on how porn and Hollywood films are equally disingenuous isn’t particularly original, but the film doesn’t suffer for it.
Rather, its frank look at relationships and creative plot only serve to prove just how true the comparison is.
It’s increasingly rare for any movie, let alone a rom-com, to have such interesting and dynamic characters.
“Don Jon” feels authentic and real, despite it’s only-in-a-movie storyline.
And that, really, is the best thing a rom-com can be.