VOD film review: Don Jon
James Butlin | On 29, Mar 2014Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johansson
Watch Don Jon online in the UK: Amazon Prime / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Amazon Video / Google Play / Wuaki.tv
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon, is an unconventional rom-com that looks at the modern vices of men today, while also poking fun at conventional rom-com tropes so deeply set in the way people see relationships.
The (500) Days of Summer star plays the leading role, a man obsessed with working out, going out, hanging with his boys and going to church. All of which come second to his love of online pornography. Everything seems to be in balance, until he meets Barbara Sugarman (Johansson), who is obsessed with the fairytale idea of a movie relationship.
Gordon-Levitt plays Jon with a hint of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman; he’s all routine, appearance and making well-rehearsed moves on women. Although an unlikeable self-centred character, the transformation of Jon is seamless and believable – the repetition of weekly life is a neat narrative device to highlight the changes in his behaviour, especially during his church confessions.
The addition to porn acts as a character in itself, replacing the usual barriers faced in rom-coms. The script has one foot in the present and one in the past in the form of Barbara, whose idealistic view of romantic life causes friction with Jon’s modern, singular-minded sex drive.
While this is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film through and through, Scarlett Johansson comes shockingly close to pulling it from under him with her gleaming performance. She gets the opportunity to play the role of Barbara big – big accents, overtly sexy, and an affectation for always chewing gum. Julianne Moore, on the other hand, is toned down but equally strong. These co-stars are essential for the film to succeed. With their assistance, Jon’s transition to becoming a more likeable character makes for interesting viewing, despite being a little light on the comedy.
As writer and director, Gordon-Levitt has created a simple but effective film, which conveys the thought processes of a man more interested in a physical release than an emotional connection, but ultimately doesn’t delve very deeply into how this has affected him as a person. There are some good ideas on show, but they aren’t quite fully-formed, gliding over surfaces rather than digging into them. Still, it’s clear to see there’s more to come from the director. In this, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has made a solid start.
Don Jon is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.