Joseph Gordon-Levitt -- not merely content with being a brilliant, charismatic, and dangerously handsome leading man -- has decided to test the waters as a filmmaker. His first movie, as a multi-hyphenate (that would be writer/director/star), is "Don Jon," about a young man (Gordon-Levitt) who is addicted to online pornography.
Of course, everything changes when the girl of his dreams (played by the appropriately dreamy Scarlett Johansson) comes into his life, as he faces the dilemma of choosing a real woman or continuing about his masturbatory ways. Decisions, decisions!
So, is Gordon-Levitt as well equipped behind the camera as he is in front of it? Read on to find out more.
1. Your Mom Will Probably Hate It
This movie includes some borderline pornographic images that may upset the folks -- particularly the ones who aren't too familiar with what goes on online. So, if your parents plan on going to see "Don Jon," may we suggest giving them a quick crash course on the World Wide Web, along with some of its more sordid uses.
2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt Will Now Be Even More Irresistible to Women
Not because his character in "Don Jon" is particularly sexy -- he's actually kind of a slime ball. No, JGL as a person will be even more irresistible once fans know that he can write and direct (and star!) in a movie this sharp, warm, and contemporary. As if he needed something else to dazzle us.
3. It's Pretty Sexy Without Showing Any Actual Sex
What's so weird about "Don Jon" is how obsessed it is with sex but rarely shows it at all. There's very little onscreen nudity besides the flashes of various pornos (none of them hardcore) that flicker across the screen. Still, that's not to say that "Don Jon" isn't sexy -- because it is -- it's just that it's more emotional than explicit. Sometimes the tease can be even more satisfying than the full reveal, anyway.
4. The Supporting Cast Is Phenomenal
While much is being made about Gordon-Levitt and Johansson (and rightfully so), it's oftentimes at the expense of acknowledging the large and brilliant ensemble cast, which includes Tony Danza (as Gordon-Levitt's father), Glenne Headly (as Gordon-Levitt's mother), Brie Larson (as his sister), Julianne Moore (as a woman he meets in his night classes) and, somewhat memorably, Anne Hathaway, Channing Tatum, Cuba Gooding, Jr, John C. Reilly, and Meagan Good, who make cameo appearances. Gordon-Levitt does a great job making and maintaining a world, and his working class Italian American family recalls nothing short of "Saturday Night Fever," a movie that JGL was clearly inspired by and riffing on.
5. It's a Little Repetitive
As Gordon-Levitt's character makes very clear from the beginning of the movie, he only cares (obsessively) about a few things: his pad, his body, his car, his family, and his porn. Gordon-Levitt repeats this throughout the film along with similar images and scenes. At first, it's somewhat enchanting; he creates the rhythm of the movie in a quick and easily accessible way. But soon this turns out to be repetitive and unnecessary, especially since it continues throughout the film.
6. The Running Time Is Under Two Hours
As we begin Oscar season, the movies will get increasingly longer; even efficient little genre pieces like "Prisoners" can wind up being over two-and-a-half hours. So "Don Jon'"s 90-minute runtime is more than a breath of fresh air. It's positively essential.
7. You'll Wonder Why Nobody Thought Of This Idea Before
Romantic comedies often feel like they're from another time; they're so clunky and old-fashioned. One of the biggest triumphs of "Don Jon" is that it feels so contemporary. The fact that nobody has structured a romantic comedy around online porn addiction seems kind of bizarre. "Don Jon" is really smart and sharp and well-written and, despite the seemingly racy content, isn't all that far removed from a typical studio romcom.
8. Some Things Don't Add Up
In the opening title sequence of "Don Jon," pornographic images flit by. The movie seems to suggest that this kind of graphic sexual content is intrinsic to the culture, and that the mainstream media isn't all that far removed from the world of hardcore pornography. But nothing in the actual movie suggests it. It's like the movie spelled out one of its thematic concerns in the opening sequence and then failed to follow up on it. This is especially a shame because that's a really interesting concept, especially in the context of the film. Additionally, there are things here and there that don't add up in the final film, which sadly take away from the overall fun and enjoyment of "Don Jon."
9. Johansson Does a Great Jersey Girl Accent
What? She does!
10. You'll Be Excited For Gordon-Levitt's Next Film
As far as directorial debuts go, "Don Jon" is pretty great. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a skilled director, one with seemingly limitless energy and a strong handle on the material. Unlike most filmmakers, when tackling a very small script on a very modest scale, JGL tries to maximize the visual potential of the movie. Just because it mostly consists of sequences where two people talk in rooms doesn't mean that he can't swirl the camera around like Michael Bay in "Transformers 3." His next film as a director promises to be even better: he can probably have a greater control on the stylistic flourishes while strengthening his handle on the material. Hopefully he will have a very long and full career as a director.