Gordon-Levitt plays the title character, Don Jon, a young bachelor with a pornography addiction. He has no trouble with women, but he prefers pornography for its immediacy. He finds his foil in Barbara Sugarman, played by Scarlett Johansson, a “dime piece,” that he meets at a local club. She refuses to sleep with him right away, as her experience with romantic movies has taught her what “the right guy” is like. Don Jon, not used to the challenge, decides to pursue her anyway. As the relationship deepens, their differences grow larger as they try to reconcile what they have with what they want.
The best part of this film is the acting. Gordon-Levitt and Johansson are fantastic together. The New Jersey accents take a little while to get used to, but it’s easy to tell that they’re having fun.
The chemistry of the actors is electric and serves as the perfect vehicle for their back-and-forth dialogue. Julianne Moore makes an appearance as the voice of wisdom for the film, and she is always fun to watch.
Gordon-Levitt is an established actor, but this is his first time directing a feature film. While he has directed short videos before with his production company HitRecord, his lack of experience with the process is evident in the film. It’s not bad by any means, but everything is a little unpolished.
There are sloppy edits, stutters in pacing and a few rookie clichés, like the role in the film of Don Jon’s sister.
However, Gordon-Levitt makes some good directing decisions, like the role of the priest, who represents Don Jon’s growth through out the film.
Gordon-Levitt also directs the actors very well, including himself, Johansson, Moore and the side characters, like Don Jon’s family and best friends.
The many mistakes would often make for a bad or unwatchable film, but Gordon-Levitt has what many first-time directors lack — heart.
The film has a message that it’s not afraid to say and carries it through to its logical conclusion. The comparison that Gordon-Levitt makes between romantic movies and pornography is enlightening, especially considering the place that each medium fills for the characters.
It also doesn’t condemn either activity more than the other, categorizing both romantic movies and pornography as unrealistic fantasy.
Some viewers will be put off by the excessive amounts of pornography in this film. While it never ventures into NC-17 territory, it earns its R rating, with simulated sex acts and full-frontal female nudity. The film also has excessive swearing.
Under the rough, unpolished exterior of Don Jon, it is a wonderful film, but finding it will be difficult for some people.
Runtime is 90 minutes. Not everyone will like this film, so watch with discretion.