So, what's dating like for guys in a world where they can get porn almost anywhere? And what are the other illusions affecting romance? These are some areas covered in Don Jon, written by, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Eventually Don decides to try getting with a woman as hot as the hottest women he's seen in porn. This would be Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a woman Jon describes as a ten but who shot him down. He decided to go for the long game with her, aiming for a long-term relationship instead of just sex. She is a sucker for romantic movies and relationships; she also uses her sex appeal to change Jon, from meeting his family and getting their friends together, to having Jon take a night course so he can become something more than a bartender. It's at the latter place that Jon meets Esther (Julianne Moore), a strange slightly older woman who may be sobbing one meeting, smoking week the next, and loaning Jon some "good" porn after she sees him watching some on his phone. And yes, even dating Barbara doesn't get Jon away from his beloved porn for long...
Don Jon is a intelligent, clever, modern take on what makes men men and women women -- complete with all their faults and agendas. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is wonderful in the title role, as he makes Jon both likeable and pathetic at the same time. Jon seems to want to go through life just having fun, while sounding like an addict when it comes to his porn; he keeps saying "I can stop anytime I want" while never stopping. Scarlett Johansson is very good as a woman who knows how to work her beauty to her advantage; I just wish the movie had more of her outside Jon, so we could learn more of what makes her tick. The supporting cast is very good (especially Tony Danza as Jon's foul-mouthed, football-addicted father, and Brie Larson as Don's sister who is almost always silently texting, whether at the dinner table or in church), and Julianne Moore gives another great performance as an atypical woman who is more vulnerable than the other characters in the movie.
Don Jon won't settle the arguments about whether porn is good or bad (though the movie has plenty of examples of media's sex-filled images of women (and yes, that Carl's Jr. commercial in the movie is a real commercial)), but it does a very good job of entertaining while exploring what masculinity and feminity mean in the modern dating landscape.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch