Don Jon  (2013)    69/100

Rating :   69/100                                                                       90 Min        18

Joseph Gordon-Levitt chooses a very interesting subject for his directorial debut – pornography. Also written by Levitt and starring him as central character Jon (nicknamed Don Jon by his friends on account of his pulling prowess with girls) we watch as he works out on his body at the gym, keeps his flat immaculately clean, and works his way through a succession of young hotties – and yet still finds jacking off to pornography more pleasurable than the real thing. Then he meets knock out blonde Barbara Sugarman, played by Scarlett Johansson, and becomes convinced she is the one – but will even her curvaceous figure and sublime features be a match for the infinite and easy choices available online?

The subject matter has been treated very well here by the man at the helm (no pun intended) dealing with it head on (ditto), and by mixing in a lot of good comedy. It is thematically reminiscent of Steve McQueen’s ‘Shame’ (11) but I would argue this is in many respects better as it ditches the prevalent moralising tone which permeated that film, and in many ways it does actually represent the differences between a British and American treatment of the topic, one prudish and judgmental – the other forthright and more fun. Indeed, the very idea of porn is often still hugely divisive between the sexes – the next time you’re in a group scenario just throw in the subject of masturbation over your friends facebook pictures and you’ll quickly see the dichotomy that exists generally (you can google that particular aspect of the debate for a plethora of very humorous threads – also something which works quite well is the timely interjection during a game of ‘I’ve Never’, which is normally used as an excuse for people to show off their real or exaggerated sexual exploits, of the line ‘Never have I ever … masturbated whilst thinking about anyone in this room’. This never fails to issue forth a blanket of silence over the sophistic podium, and you can usually tell by the extremely sheepish faces who indeed has done exactly that. Most amusing).

Both Levitt and Johansson sport very convincing accents (it’s set in New York City) and give really good performances, as does Julianne Moore in support. Although Levitt has done a couple of short films prior to this, for a first feature this is a sterling effort – and kudos definitely has to be given for opting to write about difficult subject matter with originality. The alienating problems with intimacy that Jon suffers from will strike a chord with many viewers, some of which will be surprised by the resonance – so seldom is any light shone on this area in a way that audiences can relate to. The only real criticism would have to be there are many aspects of a more traditional resolution to the movie, and although it makes sense for the story and what he’s trying to do, it nevertheless feels a little too black and white – the shades of grey are conveniently, and swiftly, removed from the equation…

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