Smart and sassy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writer/director debut is certainly a little too cocksure for its own good, but, beyond the false charm and arrogance there’s an honest emotional underbelly.Nicknamed Don Jon for the ruthless efficiently with which he picks up his nightly female conquests – and clinically dumps them afterwards – Jon actually prefers porn to real women, finding the instant-click-gratification far more pleasurable than the more hard-earned realities of one-night stands, however much fun they are.His latest conquest is the stunning Barbara Sugarman, who measures a ‘dime’ perfect-10 on his attractiveness scale, but soon he finds that he may have to make a choice between his relationship and the instant pleasure afforded by his laptop.
Defying the conventions of its ostensible romantic dramedy labelling, Don Jon initially goes for a fast-paced approach towards delivering its premise – Jon’s Pull, Porn, Pray, Repeat lifestyle is as regular-as-clockwork pattern which starts with a gym workout, sports plenty of one night stands and internet porn in between, and ends with ten “Hail Marys” at Sunday Communion – before settling in to a more palatable rhythm that promotes both style and substance. The performances are generally very impressive, with Johansson adding another 'vacuous bitch' to her resume and Moore another vulnerable hippy, but both granting them authenticity beyond their ostensible character caricature tropes. Levitt takes a while to settle in his young DeNiro-esque Italian-American guise – and never really convinces – but pulls off the whole one-night-stand/women-ranking/porn addict thing very well indeed.
There’s plenty to enjoy in Levitt’s debut, even if it is still rough around the edges.
Whilst the story feels original, it is also strangely, staggeringly predictable – perhaps Trailers don’t help, but there’s nothing surprising on offer here, beyond the fact that it is quite so honest. Still, Levitt certainly has a talent for dialogue, cinematography and directing himself, managing to deliver a protagonist who plausibly justifies his relationship with porn and who genuinely has problems, but without casting any ostensible judgment upon him or his issues. Perhaps his greatest strength lies in his off-hand criticisms – like the not-so subtle dig against the automated forgiveness of the Catholic Church – family observations and even loose social commentary to boot.
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