Don Jon Movie Review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Plays Porn-Obsessed Lothario With "Warmth and Charm"

Entertainment Sep. 27, 2013 AT 9:20AM
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson star in 'Don Jon' Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson star in Don Jon. Credit: Daniel McFadden

In theaters Friday, Sept. 27.

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

We've all met him. He's that smooth-talking, bicep-displaying, oiled-up dude at the club who targets beauties with a laser-beam focus -- then promptly dumps them. In this edgy and smart comedy, his name is Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, also the writer and director), and he's so disposable with women that his buddies nickname him after the infamous lothario.

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But "Don Jon" has an addiction, you see. He's obsessed with porn. He watches it on his laptop up to 11 times a day, and it's as ritualistic to him as brushing his teeth and vacuuming his immaculate apartment. To Jon, the perfect girls in his racy videos provide an instant gateway to happiness. Then he meets well-manicured Jersey girl Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson). She's a "dime" (that's guido-speak for 10) and believes in old-fashioned movie romance. After she agrees to go out with him -- on the one condition that he must never lie to her -- Jon tries to curb his objectifying behavior and XXX-rated habits. Tries to, anyway.

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GTL comparisons aside, Jon's sublime journey extends well past the shenanigans along Jersey Shore's old boardwalk. Gordon-Levitt gives Jon an empathetic warmth and charm, whether he's belting out Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations" in his car on the way to church or yakking it up at dinner with his close-knit Italian family. (The casting of Tony Danza as Jon's dad is a nice touch. It's as if Samantha Micelli herself could be sitting at the dinner table with this boisterous bunch). The ever-voluptuous Johansson also gets a rare chance to show off her gum-snapping comedic side. 

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In his directing debut, Gordon-Levitt hones the film with a self-assured hand. For Jon and Barbara's bumpy romance, the scenes are snappy instead of soapy. (The tenderness comes later, when Jon finally learns what it takes to woo a member of the opposite sex). And the porn? It flashes on screen in quick-cut montages, illustrating Jon’s insatiable need to see it -- and its damaging effect on his psyche.

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