Review: Don Jon's Addiction (Sundance 2013)
PLOT: Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fancies himself a modern Don Juan. He spends his nights clubbing, and bedding a never ending series of one-night-stands, or as he calls it- “pulling tens”. But- as lucky as he is with the ladies, to Jon- nothing is better than the endless hours spent masturbating to porn in front of his laptop. When he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson)- he tries to change his game, as she won't fall for his usual tricks. But is he in love, or lust- and is his porn addiction as “regular” as he makes himself believe?
REVIEW: OK- so I'll admit that I snickered when I heard Joseph Gordon-Levitt was writing and directing a big-screen vehicle for himself where he played, as the synopsis says- “a contemporary Don Juan”. It sounded like a bit of an ego trip- and perhaps in another actor-writer-director's hands it would have been. Luckily, Levitt is not your typical mulch-hyphenate.
Despite him having written it for himself, one of the things about DON JON'S ADDICTION that's immediately striking is how far removed the role is from what he'd typically play. Levitt's Jon is a stereotypical “Guido”- being a Jersey boy, whose life is a routine of screwing, lots and lots of masturbation (often right after the former). This is followed by trips to church, a lewd confession to his priest, and then doing his penance while working out. Sometimes he works (as a bartender) but you never actually see him on the job.
It's amazing to watch Levitt here, with his insanely jacked up physique, and total immersion into a character that doesn't possess any of his usual mannerisms. He doesn’t even sound like himself- with a little of famous Jersey-boy Bruce Willis- his LOOPER model, working his way into the performance. The result is great.
The rest of the cast is similarly strong, with Johansson's atypical performance as a spoiled “princess” who's so used to getting everything she wants based on her looks, that inwards she's a complete nightmare. And her voice! The Joy-sey accent is heavy- but fun to listen to. Julianne Moore is also on-board to provide an entirely different model of femininity- as a middle aged lady who finds herself attending night school alongside Jon, and plays an important role in the excellent final act. WHO'S THE BOSS' legend Tony Danza is hilarious as Jon's foul-mouthed father, as is Glenne Headly as his high-strung mother, and Brie Larson as his sister, who spends the entire film texting on her smart-phone- only contributing a single line of dialogue (that, of course, is the most important line in the film). Also keep an eye out for cameos from a couple of Levitt's Hollywood pals- including Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway.
In some ways, DON JON'S ADDICTION is like an upbeat, fun version of SHAME. It's racy, and often dirty- but in a way that you won't necessarily realize it (although it could get an NC-17 if the MPAA doesn't appreciate the film's message). For his first foray as a feature director, it can't be denied that Levitt nailed it. It has a lot of energy, moves at a brisk pace, and has a ton of interesting shots, including a cool way of displaying the rigid routine of Don Jon's life. It's one to keep an eye out for.