Clean, exercise, wank, pray, sleep, repeat- welcome to the world of Jon Martello, a modern day lothario currently on ‘the streak’ of his life, bedding a different girl every weekend; claiming he has never taken home a girl who is ‘less than an eight’ in his life. This all changes with the arrival of the ever beautiful Scarlett Johansson as Barbara Sugarman, who is, as he puts it- ‘the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.’
In his first directorial outing everyone’s favourite boy wonder Joseph Gordon Levitt has decided to the tackle the interesting issue of sex/pornography addiction, a topic that has been dealt with a number of times in recent years, notably with Steve McQueen’s Shame (2011) and more recently comedy Thanks for Sharing. However Levitt’s movie manages to supply the laughs that Thanks for Sharing so desperately craved and due to their difference in tone it has provided some more realistic observations than Shame could have done.
However fear not, this is not a machismo driven movie about objectifying women and cracking one out at every given opportunity, despite what the movie’s opening ten minutes may suggest. Levitt has managed to have his cake and eat it with Don Jon- not only has he managed to make a movie where he gets to watch excessive porn and then go out with Scarlett Johansson, he has managed to make a movie that has actually has something to say about the modern state of relationships.
Levitt’s film is a close examination of the life and routines of one man; the repetitive nature of his lifestyle being shown to us stylistically in the movies opening half. We see Jon going to the gym, going to church, attending family meals, and of course, watching porn. This process is repeated, endlessly on screen. Then Barbara comes along and changes all that, tempting him into a porn free life of monogamy.
Not being content with taking the route of bad boy turned good that it could have easily gone down, Don Jon adds another element to the movie. Barbara’s obsession with Hollywood movies is used to counter act Jon’s porn habit- whilst he tells us of how he thinks the perfect woman/sex partner should be, she is trying to craft him into the men she falls in love with from the big screen. Both characters are treating each other as a commodity and it’s a refreshing take on the situation that is difficult not to admire.
However whilst the movie’s first half is undeniably ambitious it does become a bit too excessive. The repetition is done to the point of becoming tedious (yes that’s the point but come on!) and the two characters at times seem like lazy caricatures. The dialogue is vulgarity at its very best and whilst this manages to make a few decent jokes, at times it just feels a little too unnatural. And as for the accents, well, let’s not go there.
The film takes a massive tonal shift in the second half with the arrival of Julianne Moore. Moore’s character, a classmate of Jon’s is the most interesting in the whole film- her past shrouded in mystery and her present consumed with uncertainty and hedonistic desire. It is the arrival of Moore that really picks this movie up and carries it through to its ending. The tonal change was welcomed with open hands and whilst the ending may be a tad too contrived for some I found it had actually raised a few interesting questions and left me with something to think about, rather than just how much a guy can love porn.
Verdict: Levitt’s debut is an undeniably ambitious picture and whilst it may not achieve everything it wanted to it is certainly worthy of some recognition. Julianne Moore steals the show from her two younger counterparts and made the film all the more enjoyable for it.