Movie Review - 'Don Jon' - Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Directorial Debut Is One Smooth Move Joseph Gordon-Levitt's writing and directing debut is a modern look at a Don Juan who's got a bit of a porn problem. NPR's Bob Mondello says it's an assured first film from an actor who's clearly been paying attention to what makes a movie work.
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'Don Jon': Smooth Move There, Mr. Gordon-Levitt

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'Don Jon': Smooth Move There, Mr. Gordon-Levitt


Movie Reviews

'Don Jon': Smooth Move There, Mr. Gordon-Levitt

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt has grown from a child actor on TV's "Third Rock From The Sun" to a movie star in "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Inception." And now, he's adding a few new skills to his resume. He not only stars in the new comedy "Don Jon," he also wrote and directed the film. Critic Bob Mondello says Gordon-Levitt did both as if he'd been doing them all his life.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Jon Martello would be the first to tell you he has life all figured out, which should probably tell you something else. He is not a deep thinker.


JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) There's only a few things I really care about in life: my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, and my porn.

MONDELLO: Yup, you heard that right, his porn. Jon's New Jersey buddies have nicknamed him Don Jon because he's a real Don Juan with the ladies - a fresh conquest every night, lots to confess at confession. But after sex, he's kind of done while his conquests generally want to cuddle. And he figures, maybe when the right girl comes along. But in the meantime, pornography offers sex without cuddling, which, truth be told, he prefers. Then the right girl comes along.


GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) Why did you say yes to me?

SCARLETT JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) You're just going to have to wait to find out.

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) All right. I got time.

JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) You're cute. I like you.

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) Oh, yeah?

JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) Yeah.

MONDELLO: She's perfect and knows it, as embodied by Scarlett Johannson. And she plays the seduction game as well as Jon does.


JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) Don't lie to me.

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) Hey.

JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) Look, you don't know me, so I'm going to let you off the hook this time. But trust me, in the future, you'll be much happier if you always tell me the truth.

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) Wait, wait, wait. I'll be happier?

JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) What, you don't think I can make you happy if I wanted to?

MONDELLO: Barbara will not go to bed with him after one date or even after one month. She insists on meeting his parents.


JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) Oh, thank you. It's so nice to finally meet you both.

TONY DANZA: (as Jon Martello Sr.) My pleasure. My pleasure.

MONDELLO: And to his horror, she wants him to do couples stuff.


JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) You like movies?

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) I don't watch too many movies. The pretty woman, the pretty man, and they drive off into the sunset. Everyone knows it's fake.

JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) I love movies like that, you know?

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) Yeah. That's great. But they watch it like it's real life.

MONDELLO: Jon, of course, likes a different sort of movie. And once he's finally sealed the deal, and he and Barbara are more or less living together...


GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) Baby.

JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) What are you doing?

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) I was just reading emails.

JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) No, you weren't.

MONDELLO: ...he returns to old habits.


JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) How do you watch that?

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) How do you watch all the stupid movies that you watch?

JOHANNSON: (as Barbara Sugarman) Movies and porno are different, Jon. They give awards for movies.

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Jon Martello Jr.) They give awards for porn too.

MONDELLO: These two are playing at adult relationships, but they're not terribly grown up. And that, it turns out, is what Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants to explore in "Don Jon." He has clearly been paying attention to more than his own lines as he's transitioned from TV to indie dramas to big-studio blockbusters. "Don Jon" qualifies as an authoritative writing and directing debut: smooth, funny, and with a terrific cast. Not just Johannson vamping in that thick Jersey accent, but Glenne Headly and Tony Danza as the parents Jon dreads bringing her home to, Brie Larson as a little sister who barely looks up from her cellphone but somehow takes in everything, and Julianne Moore, fragile and slyly funny as the one thoughtful adult among all these cartoonish types.

Gordon-Levitt keeps things riotous for the film's first hour, and if he eases into an ending that's a little Hollywood-standard after having so much fun tweaking form and content, I'm guessing audiences will cut him some slack. Just as "Don Jon" is learning the ropes after all, so is the guy who dreamed him up.

I'm Bob Mondello.


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