Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) basically has his pick of an array of hotties on the New Jersey bar scene, never scoring below an eight, even if he’s had a few too many drinks. Jon has a natural way with women; shoot them once glance and it’s a near guarantee he’ll be taking them back to his place before the night’s out. But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; after all, his friends do call him “Don Jon”.
So, if Jon is such a master of finding women to slam, why does he spend most nights alone at his computer, masturbating compulsively, even after he’s just had sex with a dime? Jon explains to us – in the graphic detail you’d expect from a Jersey Italian stereotype — that he doesn’t get off to women like he does porn. Women in porn will do anything to please a guy and, let’s face it, real women rarely have perfect porno bodies. To Jon, the real thing is boring by comparison. When it comes to the ladies, Jon seems to be more into the game of womanizing than he is the actual sex – or hell, the women themselves.
All of that changes when Jon meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), whom he accurately describes as the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Barbara initially refuses to have sex with Jon, but still doesn’t mind playing into his fantasy that a perfect porno body must translate into perfect porno sex. She is willing to sleep with Jon eventually, but only after he makes a whole lot of changes. And I do mean a whole lot of changes; biggest of all, Jon isn’t allowed to watch porn any more.
Barbara’s porn ban forces Jon to hide his habit, going so far as to watch it on his cellphone during his night class. It’s there that he meets Esther (Julianne Moore), a non-judgmental older woman who teaches the playboy a few lessons about what it means to have a real, loving relationship.
As you may have expected, this movie has a sweet side. But don’t worry, Don Jon is still hilarious and raunchy, using humor as a vessel for its very frank message about our hyper-sexualized media culture, and how damaging it can be when a person develops a skewed view of reality. For a movie that focuses on porn addiction, all the sex in Don Jon is portrayed realistically, which may come as a surprise considering how fit and downright gorgeous Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson are, especially when they’re on screen together.
This is a film about the instant-porn-on-demand era, where sex is used to sell everything from tacos to blue jeans, and women are reduced to little more than a curvy body in the media. Imagine how much we are all affected by the constant exposure to sex without even realizing it. If someone buys into this “ideal” image a little too much, imagine how hard it would be for them to have a normal human relationship.
This is Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, and he has proven he can not only act and direct, but he can do both at the same time. Don Jon is an unexpectedly dark romantic comedy, one that will make you laugh and cringe while it explores its compulsive, selfish main character, whose inevitable transformation is more subtle and real than you may be expecting.
Don Jon is perfectly cast, well-written, and photographed with style. This isn’t just a showcase for sexy actors. If you’re planning to watch it just to see sexy people do naughty things, you’re going to be disappointed. This is a comedy about porn, but it has brains. There’s a reason why Don Jon has been advertised on porn sites all over the internet — because people who watch a little too much porn really should see it. And trust me, I’m not judging. I’ve seen the ads for myself.