Don Juan of the Internet porn age

Don Juan of the Internet porn age
Joseph Gordon-Levitt attends "Don Jon" New York Premiere at SVA Theater on September 12, 2013 in New York City.

Review Comedy

DON JON (R21)

Duration: 90 minutes

Rating: 2.5/5

The story: Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young man deeply in love with himself and Internet pornography. His routine consists mainly of caring for his body, masturbating, scoring with women in clubs and keeping his apartment and car looking good. One night, he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) and while the two do not have much in common, there is enough for them to develop a relationship.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has written, stars in and makes his directorial debut in this coming-of-age comedy of love and sex in an age when endless streams of pornography are available on any computer. His conclusion is not going to surprise anyone: It is not going to turn out well for people who indulge.

Far more interesting is what Gordon-Levitt thinks happens to its users. Sex videos numb the senses and create unrealistic expectations, he says. Furthermore, it is an isolating experience, both physically and emotionally.

Gordon-Levitt takes an even-handed attitude to the habit. Just as Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is hooked on watching sex videos, Barbara (Johansson) is hooked on porn of another sort: Hollywood romances. Both these forms of entertainment pander, are shallow and reinforce stereotypes.

It is too bad that these negatives can also be applied to this movie.

Gordon-Levitt is an immensely likeable actor; it is hard to imagine just how much worse this film could have been without his presence.

The dramatic structure here is robbed of power by what a charmer the unreformed Jon is, in spite of his material fixations, porn addiction and callow attitude to women. The script ostensibly wants the viewer to root for his sexual salvation, or at least quit his solo sessions at his laptop.

But whether through cowardice or lack of imagination, it backs out of really making him look like he needs to change. Rather than porn being the problem, it feels as if he simply lacks maturity, and that his sex video addiction is a symptom, not the cause.

That sauce-for-the-goose treatment of female porn, romantic movies, is also thinly developed. Barbara has a head full of unrealistic notions about male and female roles. Other than telling him to stop cleaning his apartment so much because it makes him look unmanly, Gordon-Levitt runs out of ideas.

While there are a few flashes of wit, especially in the running gag of Jon's lurid confessions to a priest, too much of the humour leans on broad, shouty depictions of East Coast Italian-American types.

Johansson, Gordon-Levitt and Tony Danza (as Jon's father) appear to be having a ball playing characters right out of the Jersey Shore reality show. After a few chuckles, the joke wears thin.


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