‘Don Jon’ Review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt And The Real Girl

By  · Published on September 27th, 2013

Editor’s Note: This review originally ran during our coverage of Sundance and reruns now as the film hits theaters near you.

Don Jon (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) is – as his name suggests – a modern-day “Don Juan.” He’s a ladies man the girls just can’t seem to say no to. Every weekend Jon stands in the middle of the club with his buddies, scans the room, sets his sights on whichever girl is closest to “dime” status, dances up on her, makes out with her, escorts her into a taxi, and then, well, you can imagine what happens next. At the beginning of Don Jon, Jon tells us there are only a handful of things that matter to him: his body, his pad, his car, his family, his boys, and his girls. But there is one thing that trumps them all: his porn. Jon explains that it’s something “all guys do,” and while he likes the real thing (and certainly has no trouble getting it), he always enjoys his porn more.

After a while of running through the same routine, Jon finds himself bored and longing for something more. That “something more” seems to come in the dime sized package of Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), a curvaceous blonde who fits all of Jon’s stereotypical requirements. Barbara is different, Barbara is special, Barbara is making Jon wait. Barbara wants a real relationship and Jon obliges because Barbara is the “most beautiful thing he has ever seen.” But after finally sealing the deal with Barbara, Jon still finds himself hitting the power button to lose himself in his laptop.

Jon explains he has been watching porn since puberty and after meeting his father, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza), who is almost more taken with Barbara than Jon is, it becomes clear that Jon was raised to think about girls and relationships in a certain way. As his mom and dad tell Barbara the story of how they met, Jon Sr. recalls that when he saw his wife he announced, “That’s mine,” and that idea that woman are possessions to acquire shines through as Jon’s undoing because he has finally found a girl who meets all his ideals, but can still only be an object to him.

After a chance encounter with one of his night school classmates, Esther (Julianne Moore), and her random attempt to try and relate to him, Jon seeks her out after fall apart with Barbara. After steaming up the windows in Esther’s car, she turns her eyes on Jon and actually starts to talk with him, a concept Jon has clearly never experienced before. As Esther starts to get to the root of why Jon loves porn so much it becomes clear that Jon is not simply shutting out the real world in favor of fantasy, he has never known how to have a real and honest relationship with someone.

Don Jon’s Addiction is an impressive directorial debut from Gordon-Levitt (who also wrote the script) bringing to the screen a fully realized character who is searching for something, but doing so down all the wrong avenues.

When we meet him, Jon states that his family and friends are the most important things in his life, but he has a strained relationship with his parents and he only speaks in platitudes to his friends, ditching them the second he has an opportunity to get laid. Gordon-Levitt’s ability to portray these specific aspects of Jon’s personality help to make Jon’s journey an engaging one as we watch his routine and priorities change over the course of the film.

The Upside: Wonderfully balanced comedic and dramatic performances give Don Jon’s Addiction real texture; an insightful look at extreme male and female fantasies and how they live up to expectations in real life; a score by Nathan Johnson (who created the score for another Gordon-Levitt film, Looper.)

The Downside: There is a lot of sex and porn in this. A LOT. So if you are not a fan of watching that, Don Jon’s Addiction may rub you the wrong way fast.

On the Side: When Jon and Barbara are deciding which movie to see on their first date, Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway play the love struck couple in the rom-com, but if you take a closer look at the poster of two leads in the action movie, you will find real life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. (And check out the guns on, John!)