That sonofabitch Joseph Gordon-Levitt—is there anything he can’t do. I turned to “Don Jon” on a whim, as it sat in my Netflix instant viewing queue. The film was in a three way-race for my attention along with “The Selfish Giant” and “Short Term 12”. I won’t lie—it’s been such an impressive streak of Scarlett Johansson performances, that I wanted to see if she could continue(she does). Oh, okay—and she’s smokin’ hot too. But as far as “Don Jon” goes, I expected to find it an undisdinquished screenwriting and directing feature debut for the thirtysomething actor. I figured I’d find it mildly entertaining at best. Boy, was I wrong. It’s good. In fact, it’s damn good. It’s sharp and knowing, with some biting commentary about society, relationships, mass media and religion. And wouldn’t you know that Gordon-Levitt turns in a wry performance here, as well. Apparently, he can do it all.
Jon(Mr. Gordon-Levitt)is a good-looking bartender that beds a different girl every night. However, despite his impressive success ratio, Jon is also addicted to internet porn. It’s his little secret that it’s his favorite kind of “sex”. His buddies idolize Jon for his ability to consistently “score”—but then he sees Barbara(a dynamite and stunning Ms. Johansson)at the club. Jon actually falls for her, and takes a stab at a committed relationship for the first time. Barbara immediately tries to mold him into a better man. She withholds sex, expedites a meeting with his family(an excellent Tony Danza as his pop, and a sorely missed Glenne Headly as mom), and even makes him take a class to improve his marketability. It’s there that he meets the troubled older woman Esther(the brilliant Julianne Moore)—and they begin an unlikely friendship. Jon’s true test? Barbara catches him with his porn and demands that he stop for good. Jon gives it the old college try, but it doesn’t last. And soon he starts questioning the path of both of his current female relationships(with Barbara and Esther)—as they venture into unexpected directions.
What a cast. And besides those already mentioned, we get some fine work from Brie Larson as Jon’s sister, Monica, and Rob Brown as his friend, Bobby. Plus, there’s also some wonderful cameo work from big stars like Channing Tatum, Anne Hathaway and Cuba Gooding Jr. We get a string of porn star cameos too. They are somewhat explicit—and I’m not ashamed to admit that I recognize most of the names. And as a former Catholic school altar boy, I couldn’t help but appreciate the brilliance of the acknowledgment of the ridiculousness of church confessions. It’s a riot and hilariously dead-on. “Her”, “Under the Skin”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”…Scarlett can do no wrong lately. Ms. Moore, as always, is sexy and superb. And Gordon-Levitt, already a proven mega-talent in front of the camera, proves that he’s got plenty to offer behind it too. “Don Jon” is a smashing feature debut. A little reminiscent of “Saturday Night Fever”, and occasionally too obvious? Alright-guilty, but it hardly detracts. It’s a very confident outing that knows not to overstay its welcome, and manages both flamboyance and subtlety in equal measure. JGL really needs to direct again. I promise not to dismiss him the next time. Grade: B+