Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed himself as the newest cast member on Jersey Shore. His chiseled abs and bulging biceps strain to cover for his lack of height, his slicked-back, greased hair could ignite a forest fire should he encounter the smallest candle flame, his muscle car spouts the noise pollution of 1000 Priuses, and he is almost never seen sans gold chain and wife-beater.
The chain supports a gold crucifix openly displaying the centrality of Catholicism in his life. Every Sunday, he confesses his sins with earnest energy to the priest the precise number of times he engaged in sexual intercourse out of wedlock and masturbated to Internet pornography. Through voiceover, we learn Jon takes pride in his ability to scheme a pretty girl back to his pad, but he prefers a solo session of Internet porn to truly satisfy his urges.
Jon may have a problem. His Internet porn hobby occurs several times a day and always immediately following a round of out of wedlock sex with his club conquest passed out in bed. These are grounds for concern. This lifestyle description is only the setup though – perhaps Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) can break Jon’s routine.
Jon meets Barbara at the club, gets turned down which only makes him want her more, and through persistence, ends up in his first committed relationship. Barbara is a good girl who won’t give it up until she is in love and wants to shape her man into what the romantic comedy movies tell her he should be. Manipulating his urges, she gets Jon to enroll in night school and agree to meet each other’s family.
Night school is a drag but bringing Barbara home to meet mom (Glenne Headly) and dad (Tony Danza) is scarier than any nightmare. Mom’s only concern in life is seeing her baby meet a girl, settle down, and have a dozen kids and will worry him to death until it happens. Dad uses high-voltage vulgar language to yell at the football games on TV and is more than prepared to get upset at the slightest provocation.
Don Jon is Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut. He pulls off the creative trifecta. His script is fresh and original, his acting is believable, and his film is memorable. Played by a harsher actor without as much of a kid’s face, Jake Gyllenhaal or Ryan Gosling, Don could have been a real schmuck. Instead, Jon shows us he has room for improvement, not only with women, but in evaluating what is most important is his life.
Most guys in their twenties fixate on their body, their pad, their ride, and their friends. Jon includes his family and his church - you would suspect this would provide him a bit more depth as a human being; however, he remains quite shallow and extremely selfish. Here is a kid who needs to learn some hard lessons and hopefully emerge a better man on the other side. Gordon-Levitt is just the guy to show us and at the same time make us care about this transformation.