Jersey bore: 'Don Jon' offers little to love

The Fresno BeeSeptember 25, 2013 

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars with Scarlett Johansson in "Don Jon," which Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed.

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"Don Jon," written, directed and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a mish-mash of film ideas mixed with an episode of "Jersey Shore."

The general theme is about dealing with addictions, but it gets lost in the bits and pieces of romantic comedy, stalker film and family drama. It's completely out of focus.

The title would make you believe this is the tale of a successful ladies' man. Jon (Gordon-Levitt) can bed any female in a bar with a wink and a nod. He's even surrounded by horny friends who want advice on how to take home women with an eight or nine rating instead of the twos and threes they usually land. The term "land" sounds sexist, but these guys look at women as hunting trophies more than emotional equals.

Jon's got one flaw — he loves porn. It's a life-controlling existence. He hops out of bed after every sexual encounter to seek more gratification at his laptop. Most of his conquests don't notice his habit.

Then he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a woman Jon describes as the most beautiful person he's ever seen. She's also the first woman who isn't ready to dive into bed with him. She wants to take it slow. Apparently, in New Jersey speak, that means no sex until she can make him into the man of her dreams.

The film starts like a typical raunchy comedy with the goofy friends, a stereotypical New Jersey family that verbally abuses each other, a bored sister who never takes her nose out of her phone and a fake movie starring Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway (the best part of the movie).

Then it shifts into a serious relationship story tainted by Jon's addiction. The big problem is that except for having a family that fights over Sunday lunch, there's no clear explanation of why Jon is such an emotional wasteland. It's the key. He's not only dealing with the addiction, but he lives an obsessively rigid life, from the way he methodically cleans his apartment to his gym training.

It may be a little of Gordon-Levitt's own personality coming out through the script and direction. There are scenes — such as Jon showing up for Sunday Mass — repeated to the point of boredom. For a movie that barely hits 90 minutes, there are numerous replayed sequences that eventually come across as filler.

The biggest problem is Jon. He's unlikable from the start and never improves. Any emotional awakening he experiences feels forced and unrequited. If you don't like the central figure, then all the porn, oddball friends, hot dates and Jersey stereotypes aren't going to save a movie.

Movie review

"Don Jon," rated R for graphic sexuality, nudity, language, drug use. Stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Glenne Headly. Directed by Gordon-Levitt. Running time: 90 minutes. Grade: D

Theaters and times

 

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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