written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
by Bill Chambers Formerly Don Jon's Addiction, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's feature writing and directing debut is a cheerier, lower-stakes Saturday Night Fever. Simultaneously lampooning and humanizing The Situation in the title role, Gordon-Levitt plays a Jersey boy who has no trouble getting laid but never finds the real thing as satisfying as jerking off to Internet porn. (In a very funny opening voiceover, he admits to getting insta-wood, Pavlov-style, at the startup sound of his laptop.) When he begins dating Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson, having a good year), he hears the swoony music of '50s romances--but old habits die hard, and Barbara has decidedly little tolerance for porn. (She acts like it's a moral stand, but it's clear that her titanic ego can't take the competition.) What separates Don Jon from, say, Steve McQueen's Shame, and what made dropping "addiction" from the title a wise idea, is that other than Jon's masturbation frequency going up, his porn habit doesn't really escalate--this isn't the kind of movie that makes a point about desensitization, until he's fapping it to horses. No, Jon's problem is rather more conventional: he just hasn't experienced love yet and, ergo, has been deprived of good sex. Yawn. It's somewhat hypocritical that the movie has it in for romcoms, then (Gordon-Levitt calls in some big favours to spoof the genre), but what are you gonna do? What's good is a moment where Jon, in a heated argument, suggests that romcoms are also porn, which they totally are, and I liked Johansson's character revealing their true incompatibility when she berates Jon for trying to buy Swiffer refills in front of her, embarrassed that a man would even consider cleaning up after himself, let alone take a sort of pride in housework. Though such attitudes may be unfashionable, they seem culturally specific and part and parcel of confident filmmaking that anchors itself with motifs (road rage, church confessions) that deepen as the movie wears on. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Tony Danza's electric, if boxed-in, performance as Jon's profane, sleazy father.