Don Jon

Oct 4, 2013

Gordon-Levitt has a future as a writer-director.

Don Jon

Grade: B

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Screenplay: Gordon-Levitt

Cast: Gordon-Levitt (Premium Rush), Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock)

Rating: R

Runtime: 90 min.

by John DeSando

Addiction to pornography apparently mirrors other obsessions as it sends to the extreme the pleasure the addiction brings to the solitary addict.  Or at least that’s what happened to Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, also the writer and director), who watches porn as many as 25 times a week and masturbates almost as much.

Don Jon is a rewarding film more about learning to love than exposing the horrors of porn dependency.  Much quality time is spent considering the loneliness of addiction and the salutary nature of true love, which removes the loner from his sexually sexless world and into one where the loner learns to lose himself in another (the act of love being the most physical representation of that giving).

Jon’s serious relationship with “virgin-whore” (He is a weekly confessing Catholic Barbara (Scarlet Johansson) is a step toward his rehab: She makes demands of him that start him to self-realization although she is not always a benign companion.  The important point the writer/director makes is about the true connection with others rather than the “perfection” of the porn, a fool’s paradise where no depth of connection is possible.

Gordon-Levitt’s sure-footed direction pays visual attention not to the salacious screen images but the nuanced reaction of principals Jon and Barbara, and the introduction of the older woman, Esther (Julianne Moore), who provides the necessary maturity that must accompany Jon’s evolution into a loving human being.

Along the way we are treated to New Jersey working class Jon Sr. (Tony Danza), a muscle-shirted Italian with a mouth and a fascination with TV football that hints at a more acceptable addiction, TV during spaghetti dinner. The Father and son argument about TiVo is richly funny.

Brie Larson’s Monica, sister to Jon, is absorbed in her own addiction, her smart phone until the script calls for her to show she hasn’t been completely divorced from the zany dinner-table proceedings.

Gordon-Levitt has a promising future as a writer/director. Now that he’s mastered the Scorsese Italian milieu, I look forward to his next ethnic adventure far from the addiction of porn.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at Contact him at