Movie review: 'Don Jon' could use a little less testosterone

For the News-DemocratSeptember 26, 2013 

What It's About

A film about porn addiction and objectifying women wouldn't be subtle, would it? Expect "Don Jon" to be a brash, no-holds-barred look at 20-something male lifestyles in working-class New Jersey, where club clientele is rated 1 to 10, and behavior is all about the conquest.

Italian-Catholic gym rat Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) hooks up with babes but finds the girls of online porn more satisfying. He falls in love with gum-chewing knockout Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), and his parents (Tony Danza, Glenne Headley) are excited that he might finally be settling down. But Barbara, with an idealized view of romance based on Hollywood romantic comedies, has off-putting qualities, too.

Esther, an older woman classmate at night school (Julianne Moore), befriends him and sets him straight on women.

Is this stereotypical male capable of sustaining a relationship? The possibility of his redemption draws us in, but this is a film whose points are hammered home to the point of being obnoxious.

Performances

Joseph Gordon-Levitt not only stars but wrote and directed this film as well, and he's invested in the project as the Jersey guy with an insatiable appetite for sex. He's normally such a likable guy, so playing somebody with screwed-up priorities takes a while to convince us.

Scarlett Johansson gets a workout slumming as the broadly defined Jersey girl in the mold of those "Jersey Shore" airheads. Brie Larson ("Short Term 12") is seen briefly as Jon's sister, and doesn't register until she offers an absolutely perfectly timed opinion.

As the loud parents, Danza and Headley are fun to watch, even if it's not much of a stretch.

What Works

The testosterone-laden movie brings up some interesting points, but takes an in-your-face, gratuitous route to get there. "Don Jon" is obviously a niche film, meant specifically for young guys.

What Doesn't Work

The amount of explicit sex kitten footage from online porn sites is excessive. The redundancy and one-note quality hamper the overall effectiveness.

Stars: Two

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headley, Brie Larson

Length: 1:30

Rated: R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use

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