Film Review: A man and his laptop in 'Don Jon'

As the title suggests, “Don Jon,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt's debut feature as a writer/director, centers on a stud. Gordon-Levitt stars as a working-class man from New Jersey who beds whomever he wants and yet still remains unsatisfied with his love life. No matter how many beautiful women he sleeps with, he needs something more, and so far his only true fulfillment has come from cyber-three-ways between him, his hand, and his laptop.

Yes, his name is Jon, and he's a porn addict. Such an affliction has doubtless existed since the dawn of time but until the advent of the Internet, you were less likely to encounter it. But what used to require both effort and money to acquire now streams into your house at no cost.

Jon is so addicted that he is likely to sneak away from a sleeping woman to covertly continue their recent activity with his computer. This is simply a fact of his life until he falls in love for the first time. The spectacular catch he encounters is tough-talking, extremely willful Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), who at the multiplex insists on seeing the romantic “Someone Special” rather than Jon's choice (“Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead”).

Jon's working-class parents (Tony Danza, Glenne Headly) completely fall for her as well. (Danza's initial reaction is one of the film's best moments.) But, when she suspects Jon is cheating on her with prurient pixels, she makes him promise to give up porn. Of course, being a true addict, he can't.

Jon gets absolution for his sexual acts every Sunday at confessional. But when the priest's proscribed penance strikes him as arbitrary, he begins to talk more forthrightly to an older woman (Julianne Moore), who is either wise, crazy or both.

For a first feature, “Don Jon” is admirably accomplished. As directors, actors sometimes seem confident in nothing but performance. But “Don Jon” looks good, and Gordon-Levitt isn't hesitant to trick things up with quick-cut fantasy montages in appropriate places.

The film's biggest drawback is that its characters and themes feel overfamiliar. The plot and setting make it hard not to think of “Saturday Night Fever”: Jon is Tony Manero with an Internet connection. And Gordon-Levitt's overlay of New Jerseyness feels heavyhanded. It's not a problem with the others — Danza sounds exactly as he always has — but it's hard to buy Gordon-Levitt. Even if he took New Jersey lessons from The Situation or The Predicament or whatever his name is, we can never shake the sense that he's a suburbanite in class drag.


ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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