Joseph Gordon-Levitt stuns in directorial debut

Imagine having to fight the urge to go and start browsing a porn site. 

Imagine the incessant nagging in your brain and pants that drive you to consume porn in class, in a public stall or while riding public transportation. 

What lengths would you go to justify your actions? How deeply would this harassing feeling affect your sexual and platonic relationships with those around you? 

Writer, director and lead actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, tackles these questions surrounding porn addiction in his new film, “Don Jon.” 

The sexualization of media began long ago, but in recent years, it seems that women have to push their breasts up under their chins to get any attention. This is something that society as a whole seems to have gotten on board with and leaves one wondering how that objectified vision has affected the world’s perception of women and of intimacy. 

The story of Jon Martello (played by Gordon-Levitt), the gym rat from Jersey, takes on this conundrum with a stunning, nuanced ability. 

Jon is a guy everybody knows. 

He’s the one who rates women on a scale from one to 10, only takes home “eights” and values himself and his sexual gratification above all else. Despite this Lothario reputation, he derives the most sexual pleasure and release from porn, and prefers getting off to porn rather than having sex with real women.

Even after he meets the “Perfect 10” in Barbara Sugarman (played by Scarlett Johansson) and makes her his real-life girlfriend, his affinity for porn continues to grow. 

It is only when he can allow himself to feel a real connection with another woman, he realizes the extent of his addiction and learns what real intimacy is. 

Porn addiction isn’t treated with the same level of seriousness that alcoholism is and often is considered a joke. 

“Don Jon” sucker punches the audience by lulling viewers into a false sense of ease and levity that quickly dissolves into the portrait of a broken and compulsive young man who has been inundated with negative influences, and through his church, a false sense of security. 

The entire movie is sad, like watching a friend’s life start to crumble around them while they try to justify his own actions. 

Don’t let the previews fool you – “Don Jon” is not a RomCom.

This beautiful directorial debut hashes out chauvinism, over-sexualization and the façade of being the perfect, all-American macho man within the microcosm of Jon Martello’s troubled life.  

But most of all, “Don Jon” is a critique on the narcissistic culture that excessive porn consumption breeds.

Gordon-Levitt doesn’t necessarily condemn pornography as much as he puts its societal function into perspective. 

The more the porn flashes on the screen, the more terrifying and inhuman it becomes and the more it consumes Jon and breaks him down. The audience got a big laugh the first time porn flashed on the screen, but the more it happened, the discomfort in the audience was palpable. 

This is one of those films that will get attention throughout the years. 

Not only did it take on so many themes, but it also did so with subtlety and humor.

If this is what Gordon-Levitt pumps out on his first try, one can only imagine what he will do with more practice. 

Grade: A+