Title: Don Jon
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Screenwriter: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headley, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 9/23/13
Opens: September 27, 2013
In some ways, guys are more independent than gals. When was the last time you heard a man ask for directions? Though we men like to consider ourselves self-sufficient—we don’t need anyone to set up a TV, fix a stopped toilet, or paint a room. While this independence is something we value, there is one major way that do-it-yourself is not as esteemed as getting help from someone else, and that’s in the area of sex. While Woody Allen once said, “Don’t knock masturbation: at least you’re having sex with someone you love,” the implication is that spanking the monkey is something that is “knocked,” while sex with a partner elevates you (so to speak).
All this is illustrated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who, amazingly wrote, directed and stars in “Don Jon,” the year’s best comedy to date. With the able help of Lauren Zuckerman, whose rapid edit complete with collages keeps the pace furious and Thomas Koss whose lenses capture a working-class town in New Jersey and some brilliant close-ups of Gordon-Levitt, “Don Jon” should take off with audiences who appreciate the delightful vulgarity that has made current film a far cry from the days of the Hollywood censors who insisted that if a man and a woman are in bed, each must have at least one foot on the floor.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulls off a working-class Italian accent (again, so to speak) throughout as a young man who serves as a bartender, a student in night college, and a Don Juan with an enviable array of women he picks up in crowded bars. Called “the Don” by his two best buddies Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke) because of his skills with the fair sex, he must stun girlfriends and members of the movie audience alike in declaring that he prefers porn to the real thing, on one day beating his meat a record eleven times, a feat that hardly disturbs the parish priest who regularly absolves him of his sins.
In addition to being this year’s comedy to beat, “Don Jon” is the best movie about sex addiction since Steve McQueen’s terrific “Shame,” which stars Michael Fassbender as the junkie, a more serious tale on a similar theme, specifically about a guy who has no problem getting it up in the shower and with an assortment of hotties but could be in a Viagara commercial when he begins to develop a serious relationship with a woman.
In the case of “Don Jon,” the serious relationship comes in the guise of a gum-chewing Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), the only “dime” in the bar (meaning a woman who rates a score of 10 in body and looks), and presumably the only one who makes Jon wait for a couple of dates before giving in to their mutual electricity. He is also ostensibly the first woman he introduces to his paisan family, a sitcomish Jon Martello, Sr. (Tony Danza), Angela Martello (Glenne Headly) and sister Monica (Brie Larson), sitcomish but a lot more vulgar than you’d find in any shots of “Leave It To Beaver.” Young Monica appears to like texting as much as her brother digs sexting, given only two lines in the entire movie since she’s is otherwise occupied with her iPhone.
No sooner does Barbara catch her b.f. watching porn, thereby altering their relationship, then does Jon meet Esther (Julianne Moore), a sensible woman and fellow student who had lost her husband and son fourteen months previous and who helps turn Jon into a more mature version of himself, giving the audience the impression that perhaps Jon would now spend, oh, twenty percent less time making goo-goo eyes at his laptop and more time enjoying a refined, new significant other.
Rated R. 89 minutes © 2013 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – A
Technical – A-
Overall – A-