So much of this movie is just Joseph Gordon-Levitt masturbating in front of a computer, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt narrating about masturbating in front of a computer.
And it's a testament to the 32-year-old actor's talents that this film, saddled to this premise, still manages to be charming and wholly enjoyable. Don Jon is Gordon-Levitt's feature directorial debut (he also wrote the picture). It tells the story of Jon "Don Jon" Martello, Jr., a thickly accented New Jersey bartender and ladies' man. He's a nice-enough, church-going womanizer who soon finds the woman he believes is the love of his life: the much-coveted Barbara Sugarman, played with heat and attitude by Scarlett Johansson. The problem? Jon is a porn addict. Sure, he thinks sex with gorgeous young women is okay, and all. But the only sexual activity he truly loves is when he's by himself, drooling over his keyboard, clicking on pornographic websites.
Sounds like a weird, godawful idea for a romantic comedy, right? But the film succeeds as a worthwhile, if forgettable, directing debut for Gordon-Levitt, primarily on the likability of its leads. (The movie also features fine performances from Tony Danza, Julianne Moore, Brie Larson, and Glenne Headly.)
Even prior to his recent years-long streak of critical acclaim, Gordon-Levitt showed himself to be a versatile and promising entertainer (click here to see him as a youngster playing blues guitar and waxing John Lee Hooker on an old clip from the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun). And in the director's chair, he keeps things popping with a hip style and indie spirit. He and his crew apparently also put quite a premium on realism, as evidenced by their depiction of Don Jon's swirling vortex of web porno. Arguably, the film's most prominent co-star isn't a person but a website: Pornhub, which is displayed in virtually every scene in which Jon is vigorously stroking himself. Pornhub is a Montreal-based free porn site started in 2007. It hosts a lot of amateur videos and professionally made content, as well as celebrity sex tapes from time to time. It's one of the biggest porn websites in the world, and made news last year for marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month by pledging to donate one penny to breast cancer research for every 30 page views of its "Small Tits" and "Big Tits" videos. (This fundraising push was met with scorn by some, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure publicly refused to accept Pornhub's donations.) At the end of their "Save The Boobs" campaign, Pornhub reportedly split their donation of $75,000 between several organization, including Cancer Sucks Inc.
And the conspicuous appearance of the website's logo in Don Jon was no accident. It was a carefully coordinated effort by the crew, and one that's certainly boosting the site's profile. A representative for Pornhub has yet to confirm to me whether or not they paid for placement, but Corey Price, a vice president at the company, offered a statement outlining the collaboration: "A producer approached us in March 2012 seeking permission to use our brand in a movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson. The script had already been written and they were in pre-production at the time. After we reviewed the script and discussed the opportunity with the producers we agreed to take part in the movie. We also agreed to help them find adult clips to use in the movie from our content partners like Brazzers, Mofos, Digital Playground and Twistys."
These were clips that Gordon-Levitt and his team judiciously selected from and edited into rapid-fire, sexually explicit montages in order to tell the story.
Now here's a trailer for Don Jon:
Don Jon gets a release on Friday, September 27. The film is rated R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use. Click here for local showtimes and tickets.
Click here for more TV and film coverage from Mother Jones.
To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.