January 28, 2013

SHOWBUZZDAILY @ SUNDANCE 2013: “Don Jon’s Addiction”


When Joseph Gordon-Levitt decided to make his feature writing and directing debut with DON JON’S ADDICTION (starring in it as well), his attitude was clearly Go Big Or Go Home.  To a large extent, he’s pulled off his audacious comedy, although in keeping with its theme, this may be the kind of movie people prefer to watch at home rather than out in a crowd.

Gordon-Levitt plays Don Jon, the “don” being an honorific to salute his ability to land every hot woman he sets his cap for in his corner of New Jersey.  Jon’s secret, though, is that no matter how gorgeous the women who have sex with him may be, his true preference is pornography.  In a lengthy, and graphically illustrated, narration that begins the film, Jon explains that real sex just doesn’t compare to the acrobatics, versatility and sheer willingness of the women in porn.

That changes–sort of–when he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who’s as shrewd as she is gorgeous.  In classic romcom style, Jon strives to become a better man for Barbara, taking classes in night school, introducing her to his family (father Tony Danza, mom Glenne Headly, and sister Brie Larson), and otherwise following her guidelines for improving his life.  There’s just one thing she wants him to stop doing that he can’t quite make himself obey…

Gordon-Levitt’s script has a few more tricks up its sleeve, and although the Jersey Shore-ish milieu and nonstop sex jokes may feel crude at times, the plotting is actually fairly surprising and well-considered, including the late entry into the story of Esther (Julianne Moore), a fellow night student of Jon’s.  If it all ends up in a sentimental place, the movie feels like it’s earned its little victories.  Similarly, his direction is consistently funny and well-paced, although it does rely heavily on repeated motifs and montages (typical Sunday mornings with the family at church and weekly confessions, days at the gym, nights out with his pals, his other regular time spent in front of the computer screen–some of the latter may have to be edited, in any case, if the film is to achieve an R rating, event though he stays just this side of the flat-out explicit).  Gordon-Levitt effectively works out variations in these repeated gags, but they do get a bit repetitive after a while.

Unsurprisingly, Gordon-Levitt is great with the actors, starting with himself.  Although he’s played a wide variety of roles in his career, it’s not clear that any other filmmaker would have thought of him to play a muscled, thick-headed minimum-wage guy, but he was right to think that he could pull it off.  Johansson, both lightly parodying and making use of her sexpot image, is very deft as Barbara, and Moore brings great warmth to Esther, even though her role is the least developed of the leads.  Danza’s loudmouth father is worthy of being compared to DeNiro’s turn in Silver Linings Playbook, Headly has her best role in years, and although you’d think the repeated gag of Larsen constantly texting would wear thin, Gordon-Levitt has given a great button to her character.  Jon’s buddies, played by Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke, are more familiar characters, but still very funny.

Don Jon’s Addiction would be an impressive debut for any director, but Gordon-Levitt’s achievement in successfully broadening his own perceived acting range as well as working in an unexpected genre and setting is particularly notable.  The film wasn’t just bought (by Relativity), but is certain to receive a wide release, with a reported $25M marketing commitment from the studio.  It has a chance of being the rare Sundance buy to find a mainstream audience.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."