After a bumper year as an actor with performances in Premium Rush, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper and Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt shifts into his directing debut, which he also wrote and stars in. And while Don Jon isn't a defining statement as yet, it's an immensely likeable effort, certainly rough around the edges but smart and determined about where it wants to go with its portrait of a New Jersey Italian-American Lothario getting simultaneously his sentimental education and his comeuppance.

     Centred around his own performance as the vain Jon Martello, a buff womanizer seemingly straight out of Jersey Shore central casting, Mr. Gordon-Levitt articulates his tale as a gently satirical look at the role models and images adopted by contemporary youngsters, underlined by the fact that the titular addiction of Jon's is to internet porn. As Jon's strongly accented voiceover puts it, masturbating to online titillation has the great advantage of being the perfect night out: no real-life sexual tryst can ever hope to reach the unassailable level of these clips that eject all of the messy situations they generate in real life. Therein lies both the beauty and the danger: everything else around Jon is merely an itch that needs to be scratched, the need for actual sex fulfilled by an endless stream of one-night-stands to be discarded like the moist towelettes thrown on the bin after another successful act of onanism. Until, that is, the "one that gets away", Scarlett Johansson's sassy and feisty Barbara, hoists him on his own petard and he begins to realise that love is a two-way street his addiction may jeopardize - as his overbearing night-school classmate Esther (Julianne Moore) will eventually teach him.

     Making the most of his obviously low budget, Mr. Gordon-Levitt proves himself in command of the tone he's looking for (part satire, part gentle comedy-drama), but not necessarily of its tempo and structure: a slightly over-drawn first half, a somewhat rushed second, a few nicely drawn but rather underused supporting roles in Jon's family. Undeniably, though, as an actor he more than steps up to the plate, using well his good-looking-guy-next-door looks, and as director he shows himself adept with his cast, more than making up for whatever shortcomings he may have elsewhere. Ms. Johansson is pretty good in a reasonably thankless part, and Ms. Moore offers a typically understated but wonderfully rounded performance in what is essentially a supporting role. Most interesting, though, is the way that this somewhat loose, fluid tale of contemporary mores turns out to evoke John Badham's much misunderstood Saturday Night Fever and its look at the dreams and aspirations of working-class youth, substituting the internet for disco dancing. As an actor, we knew Mr. Gordon-Levitt seldom rested on his laurels, and as a director he proves to be equally charming and hard-working.

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Rob Brown, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Jeremy Luke, Italia Ricci, Tony Danza
Director and writer: Mr. Gordon-Levitt
Cinematography: Thomas Kloss (colour, widescreen)
Music: Nathan Johnson
Designer: Meghan C. Rogers
Costumes: Leah Katznelson
Editor: Lauren Zuckerman
Producer: Ram Bergman  (Voltage Pictures, Hit Record Films and Ram Bergman Productions)
USA, 2013, 89 minutes

Screened: Berlin Film Festival 2013 Panorama advance press screening, Cinestar Sony Center 3 (Berlin), February 8th 2013


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