Sex comedy. Like, is that a real thing, a legit genre? If not, I just made it up – because that’s the best way to describe Don Jon, an entertaining movie that was all at once a farce, satire, romantic comedy, and character study.
I recently found myself zealously defending J. Gordon Levitt (Looper) on Twitter to someone who saw him presenting an award at the MTV VMAs and quipped, isn’t that the guy from Third Rock From the Sun, has he done anything since then? I replied with Inception, The Dark Knight Rises? Hello? Levitt is quite the gifted, young actor in my estimation. He brings a quiet, emotive sensitivity to his roles, and that vulnerability makes his characters more human and relatable. That sensitivity resonated in movies like 50/50 and 500 Days of Summer, which featured emotionally compelling lead characters. Well, Don Jon is a departure from those emo, heartwarming flicks for sure – though the ending may surprise you.
Don Jon marks Levitt’s debut as a writer/director, and I think viewers will find his style humorously authentic. Levitt stars as Jon, a young man who looks like he could’ve been on Jersey Shore. To my point, the movie is set in New Jersey and Jon is young, Italian, obsessed with his physique and always DTF (down to uh…let’s just say ‘fornicate’). At first blush Jon is a walking cliché: a young man obsessed with his sexual conquests and women in general. He and his friends go out prowling, and more often than not Jon is successful, at least in terms of “scoring.” By any other metric, Jon is lacking, though he is oblivious to his emotional ineptitude.
You see, Jon’s sexual identity and habits are largely shaped by the world of digital porn. His affinity for porn borders on compulsion. He’s like a walking boner – finding visual stimulation in the most innocuous of places, including the check out aisle of the grocery store. However, lest you think Jon lacks even a modicum of substance – his lifestyle departs from vapidity when we glimpse his love of church and family, which is hilariously juxtaposed with his sexual exploits.
Sometimes it takes a particular experience or person to help us achieve self-actualization in certain aspects of our lives. For Jon, meeting Barbara (Scarlett Johansson, Hitchcock) inadvertently changes his world. To say that Barbara is alluring would be an understatement, and her physical appearance draws him in immediately. Johansson and Levitt had magnetic chemistry, more than any pair I’ve witnessed recently. Initially Jon is content to bask in Barbara’s sheer hotness, but most relationships that begin with such aesthetic adulation end in disappointment, and Jon begins to question his perceptions about dating and intimacy. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, but Julianne Moore (Crazy, Stupid, Love) is featured in a supporting role and perfectly adds to Jon’s character development, contrasting completely with Johansson’s more overt appeal.
I enjoyed Don Jon, because I thought it had a little more substance than people may give it credit for. Sure, it’s funny and a little raunchy. But it was also thoughtful, reflecting a depth of character that wasn’t readily apparent. J. Gordon Levitt has given us a peek at his wheelhouse, and I want to see more. This movie would make for a great date night, and unlike the typical rom-com: you won’t have to drag your man kicking and screaming. Grade: B+