Quint was very impressed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut DON JON at SXSW 2013!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with some thoughts on Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut Don Jon's Addiction (or simply Don Jon now, I guess). What a surprisingly entertaining film. I mean, I knew it was a comedy about a porn addict starring JGL, so I was expecting it to be good, but perhaps I brought in some of Gordon-Levitt's past movies because I was thinking it might be a little grittier and less funny (damn you, Mysterious Skin!).
But I was wrong. It's a true blue hard R-rated romantic comedy about a kind of awful guy with a kind of good heart who obsesses over a more than kind-of-beautiful woman with a more than kind-of-awful heart. It's one of those relationships that you know is doomed from the first second JGL and Scarlett Johansson lock eyes. Hey, I don't begrudge Jon. Johansson is ridiculously hot in this movie. I get the attraction, but she's one of those girls who wants to fundamentally change her guy and that's baaaaaaaddddd news.
Add on to that Jon's personal addiction to online porn and you got a recipe for a slow crumbling disaster. Their relationship is the Titanic and you're just waiting for the iceberg, but in a weird way the iceberg is a good thing because by the time that moment hits you kind of want to throw Scarlett out of a window anyway. I think I lost any connection to that Titanic metaphor I was trying to build, but you catch my drift.
I know what I'm describing doesn't sound like a commercial film, but despite the copious amounts of very cleverly edited real porn it's kind of light and fun despite the subject matter.
Basically Gordon-Levitt's enchantment with porn stems from him having unreal expectations of real life relationships. He gets lost in that distance jerking off to online porn gives you. It's the perfect sexual relationship for him. He doesn't have to change anything about himself and he gets every possible angle on sex that gets him off, all in one pornhub visit.
So it makes everything all that more bizarre that he's willing to give so much of that up for Johansson. In a weird way she's the female version of Jon without the porn addiction. She is not willing to change one iota of her routine to make this pairing work and puts unreasonable expectations on her new beau from the very first date.
If Joe wasn't so likable this would have been intolerable. He's miserable, but not willing to pull out of the nosedive for some reason. However this weakness helps him shake that Jersey Shore macho pussy-hunter asshole vibe he radiates for the first third of the film. It makes him sympathetic because for the first time he's trying to be somewhat selfless.
Tony Danza plays Joe's dad in the movie and you guys... Tony Danza! He's so goddamn funny in this movie! I really, really hope this puts him back on the map and we start seeing more of him. He's aged into a really interesting look and I can easily see him turning a new page in his career as a great character actor. He's a bit beefy and kind of ripped now. Gonna be interesting to see how this film propels the next chapter in his onscreen life.
In front of the camera, Gordon-Levitt is great as usual. That's to be expected. The real question was seeing how he handled the directing gig and I think he nailed it. Don Jon could easily have come off as a vanity project since he chose to star in the film as well as direct it, but he portrays Jon in such an unflattering light throughout most of the movie that any thought that he might be doing that doesn't even crop up while watching.
Visually he constructs the film very well, he's obviously good with his actors, but he was doing some deeper stuff that really made me sit up and take notice. There's a whole lot of repetition in the movie and creatively he uses that get us used to Jon's lifestyle. He jerks it (always beginning with the sound of his Mac starting up), cleans his apartment, goes to the gym, goes to his church, eats with his parents and then tries to get laid while out with his friends, even though he's not as satisfied with real life sex and we get the feeling that he's doing this because he feels that's what expected of him. There's also an element of the conquest, the ability to bed a woman, is so much more important to him than the physical pleasure.
We get a few cycles of this before Johansson comes into his life and then the repetition begins to change as she exerts her influence. It's a visual way to show us how his life is altered by her presence and a very smart way to get that feeling acrosss.
Like with his HitRecord Project and his acting career, I think Gordon-Levitt has set out to do something and knocked it out of the park. The dude always seems to be challenging himself and we, the audience, gets the benefit of that time and time again. Let's hope this is only the start of the stack of great work we'll see from him in the decades to come.
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