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London Film Festival 2013: Don Jon - Review

Don Jon

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JOSEPH Gordon-Levitt has already established himself as one of the finest young actors of his generation. Well, now he’s writing and directing too!

Don Jon, his debut, is a smart, sexy, fun romp of a movie that gleefully subverts rom-com convention to offer up something fresh and occasionally thought-provoking. It’s also daring.

Gordon-Levitt plays the Jon of the title, a devout Catholic who loves body-building, family, friends, women and porn. When not bedding the ladies, he’s jerking off to images and videos of them, and thereby fulfilling the fantasies and desires that real-life bedfellows can’t always provide.

Yet Jon’s life and philosophy is about to change. First, he meets the drop-dead beautiful Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), and looks to go steady with her to the delight of his despairing mum. And then he meets the older, wiser Esther (Julianne Moore), who may just provide the real acid test of his sexual maturity.

Gordon-Levitt’s film deserves credit for managing to combine edgy with sweet without succumbing to obvious sentiment or contrivance. And while it sometimes feels a little too glib and errs towards the disposable it does also have some interesting things to say about modern attitudes to sex, religion and, above all else, porn.

In that regard, it’s a hell of a lot smarter than most rom-coms and capable of striking a chord with men as well as women.

The script is sharp, the situations are relatable and the characters all feel rounded and as flawed as they are, mostly, likeable.

Gordon-Levitt, as director, also draws cracking performances from his cast. Johansson is the best she’s been since Lost in Translation and gets plenty of room to flesh out her character, Moore is great too (and tasked with giving the film its real heart and soul, albeit with a slightly awkward tragic background plot device) and there’s terrific support from Tony Danza and Glenne Headly, as Jon’s parents.

Gordon-Levitt himself, meanwhile, offers up a brash, egotistical, borderline misogynist whose journey towards finding greater sensitivity towards and understanding of women is a long way removed from anything he’s done before.

With a less astute script or director, Jon could have been a complete turn-off; a jerk who likes to jerk off. It’s a measure of the actor’s success in the role that he even manages to come off as sweet.

Overall, Don Jon has to rate as a triple success for the star. It’s a genuine crowdpleaser.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 90mins
UK Release Date: November 15, 2013
London Film Festival Dates: October 16 (Odeon West End, 6pm), October 17 (Odeon West End, 12.30pm), October 20 (Hackney Picture House, 8.45pm)