Within the first ten minutes of “Don Jon” an older couple walked out of the theater because the film was “terrible” and “disgusting.” What else did they expect for a movie about a porn addict? Yet “Don Jon” is fairly graphic — a tell-all, show-all of every “money shot” and the lewd desire behind it. This is both Jon and his namesake film’s problem; they try too hard to show and be too many things: the romantic comedy, the recovering addict movie, the critique on porn while paradoxically playing a lot of it. And just like porn is never fully satisfying, neither is “Don Jon.”
Jon wouldn’t be out of place in the cast of “Jersey Shore.” He loves only a few things in life: his body, his apartment, his car, his family, God, the ladies, oh, and especially porn. Smut is his escape and salvation — the one moment when he’s just empty. Jon is a deplorable character, but Gordon-Levitt plays him with a charisma and vulnerability that makes you like him. Unsurprisingly, being a porn addict makes it hard to keep a girlfriend, but when he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) he’s determined to kick his habit, and this is when the film loses itself, too.
Barbara is a Jersey caricature, tacky accent, clothes and all. For all the nuance of Jon’s character, Barbara isn’t nearly as realized and seems to fulfill the stereotype of “the more beautiful the woman, the crazier she is.” Johansson plays her for camp, and even though she’s having a lot of fun, we’re not. Barbara falls into the part of the film trying to be a romantic comedy, but we don’t want Jon to get with this princess.
That’s okay because “Don Jon” swaps more genres than Jon swaps women. For the recovering addict part of the film, enter Julianne Moore as the sexy yet strange woman he meets in his night classes. Moore seems to fulfill the manic pixie dream girl stage of the film and barely gets a coherent subplot of her own as she tries to fix Jon’s life.
It’s clear Gordon-Levitt has been in the business for awhile. He can cast some of the best actors, knows how to direct with flash and style and writes a complex character he’s unexpectedly perfect at playing. Yet like the women in Jon’s porn, everything else is two dimensional and as self-indulgent as his addiction.