Don Jon18 ¦ DVD, Blu-ray
There are all types of actors in this world; you have your A-listers, character actors, indie stars, comedic actors etc. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is undoubtedly a consistently good actor, but one who is difficult to define.
He got his big break as a teen, starring as Tommy Solomon on the US comedy show 3rd Rock From the Sun, after which he appeared in a number of low budget films. Probably his big screen breakout role was in Marc Webb's 2009 500 Days of Summer opposite Zooey Deschanel, which was quite fitting as she is pretty much the female equivalent of Gordon-Levitt on the difficult to define front.
Since then, he's done well picking up supporting roles in big budget titles such as Inception and The Dark Knight Rises; his performances have been solid, but never showing a spark that could propel him into leading man status.
Maybe he's been aware of his own career trajectory, which is possibly why, at the still incredibly young age of 32, he's written, directed and starred in his latest project Don Jon.
Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is a young Italian catholic, living and working in NYC. He works out, looks good, and has the ability to pretty much have sex with anyone he wants. Whenever he goes out with his two friends to a club, Jon has a fail-safe system for pulling the opposite of sex that works a charm. Although he enjoys it, it's all a little bit too routine.
What he gets a thrill from every time however is porn. He's addicted to the stuff. Even if he's had great sex, he'll still sneak off and knock one out in front of his laptop with a girl still warm in his bed.
And then he meets the perfect ten: Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). In every respect, she's his ideal partner. The fact that she doesn't put out on a first date – or second, third, or fourth for that matter – only spurs him on to get what he wants. But Barbara is no pushover, and uses what God gave her, to get what she wants. So she provides a number of hoops for Jon, which he gladly jumps through. One of them is to take a night class, in order to better himself and his future prospects. And he agrees.
It's at one of these classes that Jon meets Esther (Julianne Moore); she's an older woman, who often bursts into tears, which Jon finds awkward, but an unusual friendship develops.
Another hoop Barbara soon insists on is a complete ban on porn. For Jon, this is the greatest challenge yet, and one he definitely struggles to rise to, putting his relationship with Barbara very much on the line.
Although the material sounds a little on the sordid side – and in truth, it is – Gordon-Levitt's first outing as writer/director is a sharp and witty one. On top of that, he's seriously buffed up on his body weight, giving him an almost super human aura, which who knows, might come in handy down the line.
As a writer, Gordon-Levitt has written something far more contemporary than a rom-com – a sex-com would be far more accurate – with its amusing reflection of the porn industry on society today.
As a director, he's produced a film with a rapid tempo – at times it has the manic pacing of a sketch show about it – that constantly keeps the action fresh.
And as the lead star, he's delivered more of a caricature than a character; his portrayal of Jon is slightly removed from real life, and is akin to a protagonist from a modern graphic novel. This allows an audience to not complete despise his shallow attitude; in fact, as Gordon-Levitt clearly plays it for laughs, he cleverly injects his crass character with a fair amount of charm, making it really difficult to hate the guy, despite wanting to.
Overall then, he manages to impress on all fronts with his directorial debut. It's sharply observed and wickedly executed, making it the best adult comedy since Ted.
The one area he disappoints with is a flaccid 'happy ending', but let's face it, that wouldn't be the first time.
Gordon-Levitt achieves a certain level of greatness with this film; not only impressing at his prowess in his ability to please in various positions (acting, directing and writing), but proving that he really does have the balls to step and be a leading man after all.