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Don Jon - *** 1/2 (90 minutes)

Don Jon

Tuesday May 28, 2013

Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  A name that is hard to remember-however a face you've seen over and over.  After all, he has over 60 credits as an actor despite his scant 32 years on the planet.  Most folks will remember his visage from the popular TV series "Third Rock from the Sun" in which he appeared in 139 episodes from 1996-2001.  However, his filmography stretches back to 1991, including a role in Robert Redford's 1992 film "A River Runs through It".   Acting is just one facet of his talent as his credits run the gamut from producing, composing, to working behind the camera.  With "Don Jon", he combines his knowledge and experience to a new level, performing triple duties as first-time director, writer, and lead actor.

This is a different kind of romantic comedy the likes of which Hollywood has never seen.  Don Martello, (called affectionately Don Jon by his friends) has a lot going for him:  he's handsome, smart, and has a way with the women.  However, there is one little quirk that keeps him from establishing a lasting loving relationship.  He'd rather direct his "romantic" intentions to online pornography sites than in-the-flesh members of the opposite sex.  That is, until he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson juicily playing a character that many guys in the audience will surely recognize) who just might be the living doll of his fantasies. 

The first half of the film is the strongest as the camera and effective soundtrack feverishly cuts and whirls as it catalogues nonstop Don's crazy lifestyle and obsession.   The scenes with his buds in a nightclub where he does his real-life stalking are hilarious.  Don lives a more subdued double life when he hooks up with his family which includes dad (Tony Danza), mom (Glenn Headley in an Oscar caliber performance) and social media addicted younger sister, Monica (Brie Larson).  And the always outstanding Julianne Moore plays an older, wiser woman Don meets at college who just might have the answers he is seeking.

Unfortunately, the second half of the film somewhat deteriorates into a typical Hollywood sitcom as it slows down the energy in the first half to more closely define the characters and plot.  Overall, though, Gordon-Levitt shows extreme confidence in his writing and directing.  Although there are stereotypes galore, Joseph successfully pulls off a comedy about a topic that some may find distasteful, but at its core, is a film that reflects, rightly or wrongly, the modern times we live in.

"Don Jon" opens nationwide Friday September 27.

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) makes his move on Barbara
(Scarlett Johanssen)
Jon, Sr. (Tony Danza) having a heart-to-heart
with Jr.

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