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Don Jon is another gem in a long line of highly enjoyable Joseph Gordon-Levitt movies. It’s no Hesher or 50/50, which are both in the upper echelon of my favorite movies—and that’s not even mentioning the fantastic, mesmerizing sci-fi flick Looper. But you can hardly hold that against Don Jon.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the writer/director, and his talent shines through in both aspects as he truly transforms into a Jersey Shore reject. However, that may actually be unfair to Jon because there’s more depth to his character than those orange, greasy one-note duds. After witnessing the quality caliber of Gordon-Levitt’s writing, I can excitedly declare I’m looking forward to the next 10-15 years of his movies. Hopefully, the same can be said for Michael B. Jordan (Wallace from The Wire) after his phenomenal performance in Fruitvale Station. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a few steps ahead of Michael B. Jordan at this point, but these are two incredible young actors with a penchant for interesting roles.

Pay attention to them, please.

As for Don Jon, it is a romantic comedy that avoids being your typical cookie cutter romantic comedy. Initially, I heard about this movie during Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s appearance on The Nerdist Podcast when it was still titled Don Jon’s Addiction. It’s fair to wonder whether or not Joseph Gordon-Levitt felt compelled to curtail the dark humor for a broader audience and more widespread appeal because this movie was initially threatened with the dreaded NC-17 label for the graphic porn displayed.

Ultimately, Don Jon could’ve gone darker with more of a bend on the genre, but it’s hard to complain when a movie makes you laugh and makes a point at the same time.

“There’s only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.” — Don Jon

Don’t look too much into the story of Don Jon ahead of time. Where the story turns and how deep you travel down into the rabbit hole is a pleasant surprise. What you need to know is that Don Jon is a Jersey ladies man who loves porn and trying to find a new woman to fuck every weekend. This is not a shitty Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy, but it could have been if it were in the wrong hands. If only McConaughey did something half as interesting as this movie during his stretch of boring box office bombs.

Transformation

While this is largely a character study and commentary on love/relationships, the writing develops some thoroughly entertaining secondary characters. Tony Danza redeems himself—for failing to even remotely resemble a baseball pitcher in Angels in the Outfield, which also starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt—with this performance as Don Jon’s simpleton dad who loves football. He fucking loves football.

Who knew Tony Danza could act?

We all know Julianne Moore can act, and she does an impressive job as always in this movie as Esther. It was an interesting casting choice to go with Julianne Moore, but it pays off because of her incredibly believable portrayal. Scarlett Johansson is her typical uptight self, which is perfectly apt for her character of Barbara as a somewhat prudish, superficial succubus.

Some twists and quirks create an entertaining prism from which to view love/relationships. You surely have known someone in a similar position as Jon who has changed since he’s been dating Barbara. And now Jon is facing the inescapable pressure to settle down and start a family. That is an issue of note when you’re only concerned continuing your streak of fucking a new “8” or above each week. Oh, and Jon loves porn even more than prolonging that Cal Ripken-esque streak.

As if it needs to be said after reading this review, Don Jon is not a movie for parents or stuffy old white people with no sense of humor. Even watching this movie with a loved one or close friend could be awkward due to the rather racy subject matter. But don’t let the generous heaping of porn prevent you from watching this movie because there’s a genuine beating heart at the center of Don Jon.

Tony Danza

4 out 5 stars

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