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Don Jon
Genre Drama
 
Review:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is quickly establishing himself as a bankable actor after a series of significant roles in films like The Dark Knight Rises, Inception and Looper. He's more than that, pushing forward with his Just Hit Record brand by writing and directing his first feature film, Don Jon.

Gordon-Levitt's bold new romance comedy drama explores the arena of sexual intimacy by means of a character portrait of a young New Jersey man, whose sexual addiction is getting in the way of finding his true love.

In what can be loosely described as Requiem for a Dream meets Saturday Night Fever without the dancing, Don Jon positions itself as a crossover between art house and commercial. While the material has a definite frat boy affinity, dealing with pornography, picking up girls and being cool, the film's edge, religious tones and thought-provoking content give it artistic credibility.

Gordon-Levitt is tapping into an uncomfortable grey area surrounding the role of masturbation in adult relationships. His character's addiction gives him unrealistic expectations when it comes to sex and his disappointment with various partners only perpetuates his addiction to porn and "beating the meat".

The young director doesn't stray from the source material, exposing a range of porn montages in the process. As a muscle car-driving, vest-wearing, hair-slicking cool cat, his choice of language is poor. With a frequent stream of expletives, nudity and sex, Don Jon is not a film for sensitive viewers. It's contentious, pushing boundaries and packing a punch - one that hopefully starts the right conversations.

He's supported by Scarlett Johansson, who plays his sultry girlfriend, Tony Danza as his Italian father and the seasoned Julianne Moore as a fellow student. It's a wonderful showcase for Johansson, whose performance is characteristically strong, donning a chewing gum accent and some provocative dresses. Moore is also good, taking on a more complex character, while it's great to see Danza again.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is not the best actor for the glove and you could imagine Channing Tatum (who has a wink-wink cameo), being a better match. Gordon-Levitt doesn't let this get in the way of a fully committed performance, judging from his involvement and physical conditioning. Although, this film has a modest budget and which director wouldn't be tempted to cast himself in a film featuring Scarlett Johansson as a romantic interest.

Don Jon shows great promise as a debut, showing insights, street smarts and a good understanding of what works visually. While entertaining, often funny, Don Jon does feel a little repetitive at times. The Requiem for a Dream influence plays out on a broader scale and this does make the second half feel a bit predictable.

We're fascinated by Don Jon's double-edged lifestyle as he treats the confession box like a vending machine and struggles to discover true love. His inner turmoil is conveyed with great sincerity by Gordon-Levitt and his co-stars help generate some genuine relational chemistry. Don Jon is not a film you will want to see on date night, but does raise some pertinent discussion around sexual intimacy in modern culture.

The bottom line: Promising

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