Gordon-Levitt makes his directorial debut in Don Jon

imbd.com

Mike Colonna, Contributing Writer

DON JONIf you are looking for a family friendly romantic comedy, skip this one, because this bold flick shocks you with its vulgarity.  Still, it is not without a beating heart and stylish direction that keeps it fresh and alive.  Written, directed, and starring Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Don Jon is one the most standout comedies of the year.  The movie follows Jon (Levitt), a “Jersey” guy with a devotion to his friends, family, church, and online collection of pornography.  His daily routine of going to the gym, scoring girls, watching porn, and confessing his sins is interrupted, however, when he falls for Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who is a “10” in his book. Hoping to make their relationship stick, he seeks advice from his father (Tony Danza) and an unlikely friend Esther, his emotionally unstable classmate (Julianne Moore).

Don Jon is propelled by both its stylish, humorous direction and performances that are light and funny, as well as the realistic and gritty ones when the moment calls for it.  As it is his directorial debut, Levitt makes sure his bold direction is at the forefront of the film.  Whether it is through stylistic jump cuts or swelling, melodramatic music, Levitt loves to exaggerate the films emotions in fun, cartoony ways, and it nearly always works.

The fangirls who will flock to this movie expecting to see Levitt in his usual “nice guy” persona (made popular by movies like 500 Days of Summer and 50/50) will be rudely surprised.  In a refreshing break for his acting career, Levitt is rawer, cruder, and more sex addicted as Jon than any of his past characters.  But that is not a bad thing.  Levitt brings this movie to life, pumping energy into every scene he is in.  Opposite him, Johansson does an equally fine job, switching to and from the playful girlfriend and the hurt, distrustful girlfriend smoothly and realistically.

But the movie is deeper than porn and love.  Underlying the film’s drama and emotion are huge questions that plague our modern, media-filled society: how many of us are disillusioned by movies?  How many of our relationships have we tainted because they have not lived up to movie standards?  Don Jon confronts these questions head on, with confidence in its stride that is hard not to appreciate.

The film is not without its flaws, though.  It is easy to be turned off by the excessive pornography, which is blasted at viewers almost totally uncensored throughout the movie.  It is shocking and interesting at first, but after a while, it becomes a nuisance that makes certain scenes painfully awkward to sit through.  Near the end, the movie tends to lose its fangs as well, with its somewhat abrupt transition in direction from bold to sappy.

Don Jon is a movie you have to see to believe.  With vibrant direction and charismatic performances from a well-rounded cast, it is hard not to get lost in the film’s energy. Just do not see it with your grandparents.