Employing a hefty load of timely observational humor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut feature is a noticeably unsubtle take on contemporary gender roles. Donning the guise of a sexist twentysomething Jersey native, Gordon-Levitt steps into the polished shoes of Don Jon‘s title character as he fervently exemplifies his daily routine, including and mostly limited to bedding women amid pornographic overindulgence. Gleefully perpetuating this awful but well-intentioned stigma, Jon finds solace in Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) – deemed a “dime” by the former and his boys – as the two begin a tenuous relationship that either will or won’t redefine the Lothario’s lifestyle.
Opening as obnoxiously as its key characters spew dialogue, Don Jon certainly doesn’t fail in making an initial impression as it does so in a purposefully explicit and tactless fashion. Competently illustrating Jon’s chronic disillusionment with the opposite sex, the word addiction as part of the film’s original working title doesn’t quite mesh with heavy-handed anti-chauvinist satire. Going through the motions as predictable self-betterment comes into play, Don Jon at least pumps the brakes before speeding headlong into repetitive gratuity, a palpable shift in tone here and there doing enough good in sustaining a fundamentally entertaining narrative.
In a roundabout sense, Don Jon will likely be remembered as a notable inaugural effort from Gordon-Levitt and not much else. From familiar thematic redundancy to evolutionary inevitability, the film becomes more of an aesthetically-inclined, moreover simplistic tale of self-realization and redemption than anything particularly poignant. Straightforward trajectory aside, it’s comforting to see that the man at the helm has his creative wits about him as surprising emotional sincerity trumps many a shortcoming, corresponding performances included.