Don Jon is like a special episode about a Jersey Shore casting reject, but a spot of good writing and performances saves it from becoming a totally shallow self-actualization of a dude bro.
Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Jersey Shore-esque dude bro who has no problems laying the pipe with a different woman every weekend, until he’s saddled with the inability to stop jerking off to porn. Seeking a change of pace, he ends up meeting a girl that challenges his perception and teaches him a moral lesson about sex and relationships.
Don Jon is a friskier and fun version of Shame. It has nuanced performances despite a paper thin cast of characters. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays against type with Jon, a meat head straight out of Jersey Shore. Scarlet Johansson plays Barbara, his faux-humble gum chewing sex pot counterpart. Julian Moore plays Esther, the game changer.
But until Esther arrives you have a one dimensional narrative filled with caricatures.
The films plays an endless loop of stifling routines that often comes with addiction. But Jon’s variation of gym/tan/laundry gets redundant on screen. Don Jon barely scratches the surface of its protagonist’s porn addiction, so it looks tacked on. The plot becomes uninvolving as the film focuses more on reinforcing macho cliches rather than digging into the crux of the narrative.
Jon is surrounded by a one dimensional cast like him – the stereotypical Italian parents, a sister glued to her mobile phone, a couple of knuckleheads and a blonde bombshell. Jon assumes that the sexpot is the answer to his waning interest with late night fapping, until it becomes clear that they’re both more in love with their own idea of love than each other.
In the last stretch a recognizable human being appears in the form of the pot smoking classmate Esther. The ever reliable Julian Moore lifts the film out of a rut. Before devolving completely into Jersey Shore territory, Levitt injects sincerity and wisely avoids becoming preachy about the moral message of his film. A wiser older woman sheds light on Jon’s inability to connect with a real human being during sex.
Jon’s enlightenment is not exactly remarkable (porn features disposable half sentient fuck dolls and warps the perception of males) and the neatly wrapped up ending looks rushed (his cure? good sex duh). But the last act shows that Levitt has potential if he stops being self-indulgent.
My Rating: 6.5/10