I like Joseph Godon-Levitt. I wouldn't go as far as to call myself a fan of his, but he is a talented guy and he seems to be a likable, cool person. He has given us a lot of good performances in many great films - just recently in Looper, The Dark Knight Rises and 50/50. And now he is trying his efforts in a new endeavor - writing and directing.
Did his efforts pay off? Short answer - yes. Don Jon is an entertaining, lively film with many amusing and clever moments. It's fairly evident it's Levitt's first try at feature film making but it's a good movie. It could have been much better had the script had a bit more substance to it, but it's definitely worth seeing if what you are looking for is light fun. And some boobs.
Don Jon is one of those many romantic comedies that tries to wrap itself in realities of our cynical world and say something insightful about it.. Jon is a guy who has a job - never mind what it is, as in most of those movies it doesn't matter - he has money, his own apartment he likes to clean obsessively. He has a family he loves and attends church with every Sunday. He has his buddies he hangs out with and since he is a good looking guy, it's not that hard for him to get chicks. In fact, it's very, very easy.
Enter Barbara Sugarman (a dynamite Scarlett Johansson). Barbara is too smart for this game. She doesn't want sex, she wants a boyfriend. She wants the perfect romance, like the ones she saw in countless romantic films she loves to watch. Barbara is not looking for reality - she wants everything, every moment to be so perfect and so exquisite it could be a movie on its own.
Joe wants the opposite of that, he just doesn't know it yet. Barbara is stuck in her bubble of romantic comedy fantasy - Joe is stuck in his unhealthy routine. He likes regular sex. But he likes something more - masturbating while watching porn. Hand holding and embraces are Barbara's fantasy. Cum shots and getting blow jobs are the fantasy that Joe has.
Where Don Jon gets in trouble is when Levitt doesn't seem to know what exactly he wants to do with this story. Parody? Or insightful look at the life when reality meets fantasy and addiction becomes a big problem? The funniest the film is when it leans to the first one. The film's most hilarious moment involves Barbara walking in on Jon as he gets off to a porn flick. The argument that follows is one of the year's funniest scenes.
However midway, Levitt introduces the character of Esther (Julianne Moore). We first meet Esther as she is weeping in front of the school both of them are taking courses at. Joe wants to have nothing to do with an older woman, who is crying in front of the building. Later Esther comes over to apologize and she notices Joe was watching porn on his phone. Plot twist - instead of being quiet about it Esther asks 'I'm sorry were you just watching two people fucking?"
It's those quirky and unexpected moments where the movie works best and it works well a lot. Unfortunately, the progression of Esther story hits an unrealistic turn near the end. It's just a bit too much for me to buy - a guy who bangs girls looking like models being so interested in older woman that he dates her? Had they became friends after one instance of love making I thought the film could end on more realistic note and work better.
After disastrous turn in Carrie, Moore provides sweet and understanding performance here. Unfortunately, I felt she was a bit too old for Levitt. It felt like she should be mother figure to him, especially after we find out she had a son and she does all does motherly things for Joe, like drawing him a bath. When they have sex it just felt a bit awkward, even disturbing. I know it's sounds terrible to write there is something off about older women and younger guy - there's not. But the film painted Esther and Joe more like mother/son and mentor/apprentice than possible lovers. The intimate scene between them feels jarring because of that.
It's Esther that makes Joe realize he has a problem with compulsive porn watching. There is not much insight to his whole issue and he changes his ways pretty easily, so don't count on a deep movie about addiction here. Don Jon is at his best when it doesn't kid himself - it's a clever comedy, no more, no less.
The film also provides impressive supporting roles from the members of Joe's family. Glenne Headly - who was the cute pediatrician on ER 20 years ago is charming and funny as Joe's protective and loving mother. Brie Larson plays interesting part of Joe's sister - she is constantly on her phone, she appears detached from the world but in the end she is the one that makes Joe see who Barbara really was. I thought it was very clever how Larson had only one scene in which she spoke but I wish the scene went on a bit longer than that.
But the best part of the family is definitely Tony Danza as Joe's father. Danza was absolutely hilarious and he had effortless chemistry with everyone in the scenes with him. The family dinner scenes are some of the funniest and liveliest moments of the whole film and they reminded me a little of the quirky and loving family moments from Silver Linings Playbook.
Still, it's a fairly promising first feature and it's definitely worth seeing - if you are looking for funny comedy with good performances, Don Jon won't disappoint you. Especially if you are a fan of Scarlett Johansson - the scene where she uses her sexuality to control Jon and moans in the hallway is bound to make you very happy. And crazy horny, I imagine.