Joseph Gordon-Levitt directorial debut fails to impress

In Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV, Reviews
Courtesy of MCT
Courtesy of MCT/Daily Titan

Don Jon is a hot mess.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer) released his directing debut this weekend with Don Jon, an unorthodox romance centered around Jon, a sleazy bachelor with a massive porn addiction.

Gordon-Levitt puffed up his chest, strutted his hips and gelled back his hair playing the film’s protagonist. However, as handsome as Gordon-Levitt is, he is not the raw, sexy man-candy his character demanded.

Even more distracting than the physical character is Gordon-Levitt’s narration that sounds about a full octave lower than the actual character’s voice. This came off as Gordon-Levitt simply trying too hard to portray this womanizing character.

Despite the audience’s hesitation to accept Gordon-Levitt as a “Don Jon,” the story plows on into his unrelenting addiction that he can’t admit to, and into the arms of a dame who finally stops him in his tracks.

Scarlett Johansson (The Island) plays Barbara, the “dime” on a scale of one to 10, who casts a spell on Jon and breaks his bachelor routine. Jon finds himself monogamous for the first time in his life, to the dismay of his bachelor buddies.

The only problem is that he has to hide his raving porn addiction from his recent catch, who makes it crystal clear she is not the type to put up with anything she doesn’t like. Period.

It quickly becomes clear that Jon’s struggle to understand his obsession with porn is the focus of the plot, leaving the viewer wondering how he will overcome this obstacle, if at all.

The plot isn’t completely predictable though. It takes a surprising twist that probably helps keep the artistic integrity of the film intact.

The movie is littered with video clips and still photos of pornography, as well as a plethora of masturbation scenes—which although are covered from the waist down, focus on the awkward shots of Levitt’s constrained mid-orgasm face.

Once you get over all the porn and Gordon-Levitt’s unconvincing role as Jon, it’s actually a good story.

The film itself is aesthetically pleasing, with quick shot transitions reminiscent of the subliminal approach that Fight Club was shot in, only Don Jon’s overall look is more clean cut.

The opening credits are a perfect reflection of the movie’s artistic style. In between sets of attribution credits in large plain texts, shots of female bodies in increasing degrees of vulgarity are displayed while loud house music alternates in the background.

It was a slide show of the media’s perception of female sexuality, starting with a cartoon of a large busted woman and eventually surged into the images of the modern adult entertainment industry.

Johansson played her sex-charged character spectacularly well, even convincing viewers of her thick Jersey accent. She is the epitome of female sexuality, with tight clothes displaying her perfectly proportioned curves, plump red lips and long blonde hair.

Supporting characters include Julianne Moore (The Kids are Alright) who plays a quirky, uninhibited night school classmate who befriends Jon, despite his best efforts to avoid her. Moore’s performance is believable and refreshing against the other overly-sexualized characters.

Other notable cast members include Tony Danza (Who’s The Boss?) as Jon Sr., Glenne Headly (Mister Holland’s Opus) as Don’s affectionate mother and Brie Larson (21 Jump Street), as Jon’s uninterested sister whose hands are glued to her phone.

Gordon-Levitt’s role as director of Don Jon far surpasses his acting role. The character would have flowed more easily with the story if someone like Channing Tatum (Magic Mike), who has clearly established himself as a sex symbol, has been cast instead.

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