Sex and Guilt Jersey Style

Don Jon

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Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza, Julianne Moore, Glenne Headley, Brie Larsen

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut is impressive as he explores the sexual maturity of a young New Jersey barman in the hilariously bold and truthful Don Jon, in which he also wrote and takes the title role. Gordon-Levitt clearly knows he has good screen presence and after a string of appearances in successful films recently from The Dark Knight Rises to Lincoln to Premium Rush, as an actor he has obtained the confidence to write, direct and star in Don Jon, which at times is like a young man’s version of a Woody Allen movie without the Manhattan neuroses.

Gordon-Levitt plays a young narcissist bar tender Joe Martello, who pumps iron at his local gym looking into a mirror, goes to the local nightclub and scores girls frequently with his boyish looks and dim-witted charm. Even after sex with a voluptuous babe, Don Jon sneaks off to his laptop and watches porn. And that’s where the problem lies!

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Don Jon cleverly explores the seldom discussed male obsession with pornography and more incisively the increasing internet driven phenomenon of porn addiction. For Martello’s private vice is never found out until he starts dating the gorgeous yet demanding Barbara Sugarman wonderfully played by Scarlett Johansson (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Hitchcock) who invariably catches him watching online porn.

Interspersed with the relationship with Barbara, is Don Jon’s rival relationship with his overbearing aggressive father in some superb scenes with Tony Danza of the 80’s TV series Who’s The Boss? and Jon’s own relationship with the local Catholic Church, where he attends mass every Sunday and always land up in the confession, revealing to an unforeseen priest his past week’s sexual activities and exploits. As director Gordon-Levitt deftly explore the filmic relationship between sex and guilt as he splices religious iconography with explicit scenes of pornography.

If Don Jon through its humour and boldness touches a nerve with its male audience, then it’s succeeded! Gordon-Levitt ‘s Don Jon is at that tender age in a young man’s life when he has broken away from the family home but not quite settled down with his own family. His mother Angela is all gush and glamour, purposefully overplayed by Glenne Headley (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) while Jon’s sister is silent, sitting at the dining room table texting and observing (a droll cameo by Brie Larsen) offering only one salient observation about her brother’s relationship with the sultry Barbara.

What raises Don Jon from being a crass comedy is Gordon-Levitt’s handling of the delicate subject of porn addiction along with a brilliant performance by Oscar nominee Julianne Moore who plays the free-thinking, pot smoking Esther who befriends Jon in his night college course. Then of course Julianne Moore was in such sexually explicit films as Boogie Nights and Chloe, so that casting was perfect.

Don Jon explores the affect pornography can have on real relationships, while honestly examines the sexual maturity of a young man in the digital age as he balances his sexual urges with guilt and family in contemporary New Jersey. A recommended, thought-provoking and very funny film, Don Jon is recommended viewing, a clever film by new director Gordon-Levitt whose talents now seem limitless.

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