Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon, demonstrates sparks of clever filmmaking. The film’s construction is deliberately repetitive, using recurring rituals (church, Sunday lunch, gym, jackin’ it to internet porn) that change to highlight the growth of its (unlikable) characters. It also mines humour from these subtle variations – generally at the expense of its Jersey-Shore-esque characters – and transforms tonally with a gradual decrease in the pace and editing rhythm of the film.
There’s a clear thesis here: to examine the modern patriarchal view of sex, relationships and the objectification of women (through the lens of internet porn, Carl’s Jr ads and sleazy clips from Wrong Turn 3). Don Jon wants you to laugh at its characters and then recognise their habits in yourself… but it’s far too obvious, continually breaking the show-don’t-tell rule with characters explaining exactly what the film’s about.
Julianne Moore is the clear highlight of the film, bringing real humanity and light to her role. Scarlett Johansson commits to a role that is too shallow to reward commitment, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s usual spark is smothered by his thick Jersey accent. As a director, he shows a lot of promise, but as a screenwriter he has room to improve.