And so Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins scores of actors branching out into direction, with his debut feature Don Jon. Featuring himself as the lead character with Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore in support roles, it tells the story of Jon, a man who is addicted to porn. Through a series of montages he is shown to pick up girls in obscenely tight dresses, sleep with them, and then watch some porn whilst the girl sleeps in his bed. That is, until he meets Barbara (Johansson), a woman who also wears obscenely tight dresses and constantly sounds like she’s in a porn film. They become a couple (mainly because she won’t sleep with him and he ‘wants to fuck her brains out’) and so begins a repetitive film that only gets interesting in the final fifteen minutes.
In case you hadn’t noticed, this film really irritated me. Fair enough Jon has horribly unrealistic expectations of sex from watching porn and masturbating 32 times a week, but the fact he’s such a horrible person makes the film virtually unwatchable. Frankly, he’s a stain on humanity. He has severe road rage and seems to believe that going to confession each week will absolve him of being such a vile human being. Barbara is a psychotic nutter who talks like a porn star and is so irritatingly controlling. One scene where she gets angry at Jon because he cleans his own house, is particularly maddening and made me want to start throwing things at the screen. Esther (Moore) is the only breath of normality but she’s not given enough screen time. Instead, we’re subjected to clips from porn, repeated images of various girls Jon seduces and repeated images of him getting angry whilst driving to church.
For a debut feature, there’s at least some potential, and I understand that by showing repeated clips it’s showing the rut Jon has got himself into. The problem is, with such unlikeable characters it becomes very hard to give any hoots, let alone two, about what goes on in their lives. When Jon’s ‘ideals’ are shaken up by Esther, it happens too quickly and isn’t given enough time to feel genuine. Maybe, instead of showing multiple montages of Jon watching porn and seducing girls, it should give some of the runtime to him turning into a real human being, as he does towards the end.
As pointed out by a fellow critic, Don Jon would do a great job of getting teenagers in and showing them how having expectations because of porn can, and probably will, cause problems. However, any hope of that has been dashed since the film has been given an 18 rating, so the film remains an irritating look at irritating people. Granted, there is potential here and it can’t be easy directing a film when you’re in practically every scene. There are moments that are genuinely great but overall the film just didn’t work. Too much time is given over to the porn side of things, and not enough to Jon’s transformation. A shame, but onwards and upwards. There’s still hope for Gordon-Levitt’s next attempt!
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Writer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Runtime: 90 min