Packaged as an edgy romcom, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a feature writer-director, ‘Don Jon’, takes a wry look at why consumerism in relationships is bad news for boys and girls. On the blokes’ side, we’ve got Jon (Gordon-Levitt), nicknamed after the famous Spanish libertine. A fabled local lothario in New Jersey, framed in every shot as the star of his own world, he gets more sexual kicks from the lissom lovelies of hardcore pornography than he does his flesh and blood conquests.
His counterpart is Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). Her romantic ideal is also founded on illusion, but where Jon’s eyes glaze over when lost in a world of laptop-based humping and pumping, her pupils dilate under the influence of an unreal cocktail of clichés derived from fluffy romcoms. Jon and Barbara suffer from the same disease, with different symptoms.
As a director, Gordon-Levitt demonstrates considerable technical flair through stylistic flourishes and coaxes great performances out of his co-stars, while he remains centre stage throughout. Be prepared for at least two shifts of gear in the story which mark the film’s clearly outlined three acts – but perhaps this is less a flaw in the film than in our expectations of where a movie like this might be heading. Redemption might not be on the cards for everybody.