Don Jon is overconfident and bizarre

If you’ve ever needed a prototype for the self-obsessed millennial described in curmudgeonly click-baiting think pieces look no further than actor (and now writer/director) Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

His former 3rd Rock From the Sun co-stars have moved on — John Lithgow’s busy being a legend Kristen Johnston pops up as the loudmouthed best friend/older sister in the occasional romantic comedy and French Stewart has squinted his way into relative obscurity but Gordon-Levitt has taken a different route.

Fuelled by an unprecedented level of self-confidence he believes in himself more than any human being should and he’s built a career on it. That’s why we’ve seen him perform over-the-top song and dance numbers on Saturday Night Live star in Christopher Nolan movies like Inception and The Dark Knight Rises and attempt to transcend the stock manic pixie dream girl rom-com (500) Days of Summer . Joseph Gordon-Levitt believes that he’s special and occasionally he’s sorta right.

Only a mind that proud of itself could come up with Don Jon a movie that’s simultaneously bizarre unique flawed occasionally excellent and wildly zeitgeisty. Gordon-Levitt stars as Jon (known to his bar-star buddies as Don Jon for his pulling abilities). Jon’s a perfect Jersey stereotype an Italian-American who loves his family hits the confessional booth hard and works even harder to make sure he keeps banging 10s. He’s essentially a more fleshed-out version of the Jersey Shore archetype a fact that no doubt had executives popping boners when the movie was first pitched.

The main character trait we need to know about Jon however is that he’s got a pretty serious porn addiction. Dude can’t stop watching people nail each other and he even admits that he prefers porn to real-life sex. This goon who loves his family and church also loves to stroke it to some onscreen action. What a character!

If it were up to him he’d bone a different girl from the club every night and have some porn for dessert but that all changes when he meets the voluptuous Barbara (Scarlett Johansson revisiting her “Marble Columns” sketch from SNL ). Eventually the two fall in love and he quickly finds out that she’s got a strict no-porn policy.

Jon stops jerking his Johnson and pretends to stop watching porn but he keeps it up on the down low. Over at his night-school class (Barbara’s making him upgrade his schooling to get a more standard job) his older classmate Esther (Julianne Moore in burnt-out pseudo-hippie mode) catches him watching some fuckery on his phone a fact that launches their unlikely relationship.

The acting’s mostly well done — aside from the leads Tony Danza goes all-in as Jon’s raw nerve of a dad and there are some interesting shots to help with the increasingly bizarre plot. The film’s also wise to avoid cramming in an explicit message about the moral perils of pornography.

Unfortunately what it lacks in moralizing it also lacks in substance. Yes there’s a message about physical love in a digital world but it’s lost in a mess of repetitive visual cycles (Jon’s routine of work masturbate party masturbate sleep masturbate church masturbate etc. becomes well routine after a while). Attempting to transcend the standard rom-com with admittedly fascinating characters and an out-there story Don Jon is brimming with personality and self-confidence but in the end it feels like it’s missing something. That just might make it a millennial masterpiece.

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