Joseph Gordon Levitt's directorial debut throbs with energy, intent and depravity. Don Jon is the story of Levitt's Jon, known as Don to his friends due to his extraordinary and enviable talent with the ladies. Despite his affection for, and his attention from, the ladies though, Jon likes nothing more than to bash the bishop to seedy internet porn. His succession of one night stands mean he can avoid a meaningful relationship and skip easily between the women he takes home from the clubs and the impossibly endowed women that light up his laptop by night.
Jon might be played with plenty of cocksure confidence by Levitt but he is a also just a jerk who is obsessed with jerking off. He thinks little of women except about where they fit on his appearance scale with 10 being a perfect 'dime'. Enter Scarlett Johansson. The women in Jon's life range from his phone wielding near silent sister and his stereotypical shrieking mother to the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson and finally to Julianne Moore, past her prime but still irresistible in her own unique way. Johansson takes seductive to a new level while Moore offers something different to the eye popping proportions of the other women that Jon so vigorously 'admires'.
Jon's life is presented as cyclical and repetitive with scenes taking on a recurring rhythm; wanking, clubbing, church confessions, family dinner, working out, road rage and repeat. The introduction of Johansson's buxom blonde throws a bit of a spanner in the works but the formula remains the same. Jon does less slapping of the salami and more evening classes to appease his gorgeous new girl while his family dinners suddenly become a little more livelier now that his aggressively stereotyped mother and father find his love life more interesting. Tony Danza's Dad is particularly entertaining, all ogling eyes and inappropriate responses to his potential future daughter in law.
Overall, Don Jon is equal parts hilarious and depressing. It has something to say about relationships and questions the sexualisation of women in modern culture. In amidst the thrusts of gratuitous nudity and carefully cut images of hard core porn, there is a message and more than a hint of a romantic heart at the centre of what looks like a phwoar-some sex comedy at first. Like Fight Club with its view of modern men shaped by a society that is forcing them back into their primal man caves, many will find only misogyny here. There is plenty on offer from Jon and his boys and arguably the representation of women but deep beneath it emerges something more complex (if also more formulaic and less funny).
Don Jon is an incredibly confident directorial debut, as well as giving Levitt a role that demands he is in almost every frame, buffed up, preening and at his most revealing. It is a brave film and a brave performance. The laying bare of modern masculinity in the writing, the frequent bursts of stylistic flair and the nakedness of Levitt's performance all ensure that Don Jon will stick in the memory, not a discarded tissue for a long time to... um... come.
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