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Movie review: 'Don Jon'
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Ed Symkus reviews movies for GateHouse News Service. A longtime features writer and film critic for TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, he can often be found at film junkets talking with celebrities. Find out what they have to say here.
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Don Jon
Tony Danza is the macho dad, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the misguided son in the comedy "Don Jon."
Sept. 27, 2013 5:20 a.m.

Don Jon

You don’t get many comedies out of Hollywood that have sex, pornography and addiction at their center. We’ve seen those subjects on their own: The 1960s had plenty of innocent sex comedies, many of them featuring Rock Hudson and Doris Day. “Pillow Talk” comes to mind. There was also Woody Allen shaking things up absurdly with his “loose adaptation” of the book “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask.” These days, there’s piffle like “The To Do List.” Porn comedies have ranged from raunchy classics (“Deep Throat”) to misguided attempts (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”). The only addiction comedy I can think of is the great “Fight Club.”

Now here comes prolific actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception,” “50/50,” “Looper”), writing and directing his first feature, and starring as Jon, a would-be lothario (hence the Don Juan title reference), extreme neatnik and avid churchgoer who spends most of his time either looking for and scoring with “10s” on the nightclub scene or (literally) taking things into his own hands while regularly watching porn at home on his laptop.

Porn is better than the real thing, he reasons to himself, because he’s more in control of the situation. That’s probably why, even when he does go home so often with beautiful women – regularly making his two drinking buddies jealous – he comes across as far more smooth than mature, and doesn’t usually get a second date.

Gordon-Levitt, who proved even as far back as his stint as Tommy, the old alien in a kid’s body on “3rd Rock from the Sun,” that he knows how to own a role, is funny and full of himself and, don’t forget, fastidious, as Jon, a guy who fully believes that porn films mirror the way of the real world. And he made a great choice in casting Scarlett Johansson – an actress I generally find to be overbearing – as the manipulative Barbara, the “woman of his dreams,” who he picks up in the nightclub, and who fully believes that romantic comedies mirror the way of the real world. She’s tremendous in this role. And Gordon-Levitt has written us a terrific take on an “opposites attracting” scenario.

Also great, in a cartoonish way, are Tony Danza (Tony Danza!) and Glenne Headley as Jon’s parents. Danza unleashes his wild comic side with a combination of a hot temper, a foul mouth and much randiness, and Headley, here in my favorite role by her since “2 Days in the Valley,” is hilarious as the mom who can’t stop whining to her son, “When are you gonna find the right girl?” Add to the mix another woman in Jon’s life, the sad-faced but free-spirited Esther (Julianne Moore) to make things more comically complicated. Moore pulls off a self-assured, funny and fragile performance as a campus acquaintance Jon meets at a night class Barbara has insisted he attend.

It looks like Gordon-Levitt let everybody do their thing, and everything they did was right in line with what he wanted. He’s directed a few shorts before (check out the “Morgan and Destiny” films on YouTube), and does a fine all-around job of it here.

This is a frank and funny, offbeat and edgy movie that takes liberal jabs at the church and turns other sex/porn/addiction comedies inside out, or would if there were any others. Look for a nutty little Channing Tatum-Anne Hathaway cameo in a film-within-the-film.

Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.

DON JON

Written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

With Joseph-Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore

Rated R

 

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