If you like reading credits that only involve one name, you’ll love this. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has finally brought us Don Jon, his directorial and screenwriting debut, in which he stars as an almost comical cliché of a New Jersey grease monkey, ‘guido’. Jon (his prefix coming from his success rate with woman) is a muscle-car driving, Catholic, family orientated, gym rat in his mid-twenties. Everything in Jon’s life is exactly the way he wants it, and it’s hard to find much fault with it, apart from his time consuming, life absorbing addiction to internet porn.

The introduction of a new girlfriend, the bossy, prima donna Scarlet Johansson, gives Jon a reason to change. In an attempt to find real happiness away from the computer screen, he does whatever she asks, and tries to change his habits/better himself, including going back to school and staying away from certain online websites. Is the real life thing better than what he can find on the Internet, and more importantly, is it worth the effort?

Originally unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival in January, it’s taken nearly a year to hit European screens – an exorbitant amount of time considering its unforgettable trailer went viral in early summer. Working off of a $6 million budget, pennies in modern cinema, Levitt somehow manages to assemble a decent, albeit slightly off star cast. Tony Danza, who delivers a comeback worthy performance, is joined by Brie Larson and Julianne Moore.

Don Jon is the result of four years of production, but also of 10 years of Levitt’s acting career. He chooses a cast that, for the most part, he has worked with before, as well as the producers, composers and production staff on his previous films. He also invoked the help of his former directors, Christopher Nolan and Rian Johnson, in the process of finalising the script and getting directorial advice.

It’s tough to think of many actors who successfully cross over between independent and mainstream cinema as much as Levitt. The success of Don Jon is a testament to that, as he has managed to bring mainstream audiences to cinema screens with his star power, while delivering a film that sticks to the roots of his earlier career. This film isn’t going to pull up any trees, but it’s one of the best comedies of the year, and one that would have been a lot harder to find had Levitt not cast himself as the lead.

3.5/5 stars

Jason Brennan

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