As some festival goers would say, Don Jon is the most ‘mainstream’ or most Hollywood film at the Brisbane International Film Festival this year. Both screenings attracted a sold out crowd and there is a good reason for it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has demonstrated that he is a fantastic actor and through Don Jon, he also showcased his writing and directing skills as well. His feature debut Don Jon, is a smart and funny commentary on how the media can negatively consume both men and women in our society.
The movie revolves around the title character Jon (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is hopelessly addicted to pornography. Sure, the topic of being addicted to porn can be uncomfortable for some, but this film in such a fun flashy way that it feels lighthearted and puts the entire audience at ease while being sucked into Jon’s world of porn. That being said, there is plenty of nudity and coarse language that might offend some folks or even turn on a few audiences in the crowd. All this is essential in crafting the portrayal of this specific modern man. Jon is not a character that we would normally like. Jon is a buffed up, over-confident ladies man from Jersey who objectifies everything from cars to women. He picks up ladies who is at least an 8 on a 1-10 scale in hotness, has sex with her only to find the sex disappointing and goes back into watching porn. He also abuses the Catholic religion by repeating his mistakes and asking for the same forgiveness week in and week out. He then recites his Hail Marys and Our Fathers while working out at the gym. Such a repulsive character is surprisingly endearing all thanks to the wonderful charisma that Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings to the screen.
Scarlett Johansson gives off a wonderful performance as Barbara Sugarman, a woman whose ideals are fixated on the imaginary world. She provides a nice comparison point for Jon’s porn addiction, which serves an underlying theme of media consumption in the 21st century. Her character’s own obsession with the superficial perfectly highlights how humiliating Jon’s porn addiction, which guides the story to its impending conflict. Johansson adds a lot of depth to her character, though there is less sympathy for her since it is a film about Jon after all. Not only did she bring her acting chops, Johansson also had her body on display for guys to oogle over. The rest of the supporting cast is perfectly round up by Tony Danza, Glenne Headly and Brie Larson as Jon’s supportive family.
The one slight issue is the introduction of Julianne Moore’s character Esther. She’s a complete 180 from Barbara, but at the same time it feels like her character was more of a convenient device that allows for Jon to learn his lesson. I didn’t quite buy the connection she would share with Jon and it feels like this was thrown in to rush Don Jon to its inevitable ending that we were all expecting. That being said, the performance was fine and this is just a small nitpick in an otherwise fantastic film.
Don Jon is an energetic, upbeat film that also carries an important underlying message. Despite the film centering around a man who has a rather sleazy way of using the internet, there was enough laughs, drama and heart to keep us all engaged and interested throughout the entire 90 minute run.