Twenty minutes in to 'Don Jon', I sensed the audience had divided into two. There were those who could already appreciate the humour as bruising and witty satire. However, the other half were too preoccupied by their revulsion of the Jersey Shore inspired character “Don” Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his vividly descriptive passion for “DEM TITTIES” and “DAT ASS”. However, by the closing credits, you can only applaud 'Don Jon' as a bold directorial and screenwriting debut from Gordon-Levitt.
Jon has his priorities figured out – his flashy muscle car, pulling hotties, hanging with da boyz, pumping iron in the gym, his adoring family, and his church. However, one love in his life trumps all others - internet porn. In fact his addiction to mattress actresses ruins any sort of intimacy or satisfaction with the “dimes” he picks up in the club. That is until he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), a stunning gum-chewing Jersey babe who has her own fixation with sickly romantic films. Jon begins to change all habits, bar one, to please her. The relationship hits a snag when Barbara discovers Jon’s colourful browsing history.
The support cast is top notch, particularly Julianne Moore’s role as Esther, an older college friend of Jon who provides a subtle dose of adult reality. Scenes with the Martello family are high comedic quality, with sister Monica (Brie Larson) glued to her smartphone and macho father Jon Sr (Tony Danza) leching on Barbara. There is also a sprinkling of fun cameos from JGL’s Hollywood buddies that will inevitably bring smiles.
However, the most notable aspect of the film is its direction. The cyclical structure of each act is assured filmmaking and JGL exudes confidence with handling his hypersexualised subject material. The film is terrific at illustrating how modern youth has increasingly unrealistic expectations of life and sex, largely because of cultural acceptance of new extremes in media and marketing. Underneath the bicep-hugging t-shirts and faces caked in make-up, there is the year’s most unexpectedly romantic and touching film. “Touching” - an unfortunate, but choice summary of 'Don Jon'.
'Don Jon' is released in UK cinemas today, through Warner Bros.