By Ohad Amram Columnist
“Don Jon,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, showcases the young actor’s passion for film. Gordon-Levitt shows more versatility than his endearing roles – what we’re used to seeing.
Regardless of the genre, Gordon-Levitt almost always encapsulates the sincere, sensitive persona that we find so captivating as well as sympathetic. With “Don Jon” however, Gordon-Levitt demonstrates another character persona.
The film chronicles the life of Jon (Gordon-Levitt), who becomes detached from reality and his day-to-day relationships as a result of a fake facade that he feels the need to continuously pursue. In doing so, Jon finds the monotony of his everyday life and relationships so dull that he turns to pornography for pleasure as part of a daily routine. That is, until he finds Barbara, (Scarlett Johansson).
Even then, it’s only a matter of time before Jon gives in to his addictive tendencies and finds himself back at his vices. Jon then encounters Esther (Julianne Moore), a fellow night-class student, and the two begin confiding in each other.
In terms of an actor turned writer/director who is pursuing his debut in the newly explored craft, there’s no denying that Gordon-Levitt has passion for the subject matter. The obsession that Jon has is more relevant to current mainstream society than it’s ever been. The protagonist of this film is simply one we cannot fully like.
Jon has his priorities all messed up. He is concerned with only his well-being and won’t compromise his ways for anyone.
Likewise, Barbara’s character is strikingly identical. Their attitudes are seamlessly congruent with those of the demographic of this film. Esther acts as Jon’s mediator by way of exerting logic and rationale in Jon’s motives.
Both Gordon-Levitt and Johansson are at their physical peak coupled by jarring Jersey accents. The performances delivered were believable despite the little time it takes to see both actors in that light.
Moore adds a delicate touch to the film that brings out the authenticity in the voice that Gordon-Levitt is attempting to hone. Jon’s father, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) adds an element of comedic relief that counteracts the hysteria that Jon’s mother (Glenne Headly) befell. Jon’s younger sister, Monica, is played by the talented new-comer Brie Larson (Short Term 12), whom unfortunately gets one line throughout the entire film. Although the line is grand in scale, her talent was much underutilized.
The camera work aesthetic of the film intentionally grows just as monotonous and overplayed as day to day life, at least this is it’s intended to be perceived through Jon’s eyes. This coupled with the intercutting of pornographic stills and video clips from Jon’s laptop summarize in elaborate detail his yearning for a relationship of value.
The confidence portrayed in Gordon-Levitt’s debut does have a premise of which it attempts to follow; the idolization of relationships, as they’re depicted in the media, and other fictional or fabricated forms, such as pornography, won’t lead to self-fulfillment. The idea for this premise, however, becomes slightly convoluted when clichés begin to surface.
Overall, Gordon-Levitt has established himself as a promising and passionate writer/director. Hopefully his sophomore effort will have the aptitude to delve deeper rather than simply scratch the surface.