Actor’s directorial debut filled with more lectures than laughs
“Inception.” “50/50.” “The Dark Knight Rises.” “Looper.” “Lincoln.” If you’ve followed movies at all over the past few years, you’ve probably heard of at least one of these titles and are familiar with one thing they all have in common: actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. While Gordon-Levitt has been acting for years (remember “Angels in the Outfield?”), in recent years the 32-year-old actor has been popping up everywhere from indie flicks to blockbuster smashes.
With his new movie, “Don Jon,” Gordon-Levitt not only stars in the leading role, but also serves as the writer and director of the R-rated “dramedy.” For a directorial debut, it’s not half bad –in fact, it’s actually pretty good, save for a few flaws that hold the film back from being something really great.
The movie, which follows the life of Jon, a young college student and porn addict from New Jersey, has been heavily advertised as a comedy film. But if you go into this expecting “Bridesmaids”-level laughs, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Certainly “Don Jon” has its funny moments, but for the most part this is a drama intermingled with moments of hilarity.
The acting includes great performances from Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza, Julianne Moore and Brie Larson, in addition to some humorous cameos from Anne Hathaway, Channing Tatum, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. But the main problem with “Don Jon” isn’t the acting or the cinematography or anything like that; it’s the story – arguably the most important part of any good movie. The plot progression is nearly non-existent and the already weak story slows down to an absolute crawl about midway through the film, making the relatively short 89 minute movie seem to drag on for much longer. If “Don Jon” was filled with as many comedic moments as its advertising would have you believe, the lack of a decent story could be forgivable; instead, the film opts to go a more dramatic route, making it hard to overlook its lackluster plot.
Things really start to grind to a halt about halfway through “Don Jon,” at which point the movie becomes less comical and instead opts for beating viewers over the head with lessons of how pornography and shallow, meaningless sex can take a toll on one’s life. Right before you can even fully process the sudden change in the film’s tone, it ends abruptly – and yet, I can’t say that I wasn’t ready for it to do so.
Despite these things, Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut is overall a solid film. The characters and the situations are often just funny enough to stave off the sinking sensation of boredom that threatens to overtake the latter portion of the film, and several brilliant moments shine through with the brief hope that things will pick up; it’s just a shame “Don Jon” ends before it ever really has the chance to reach its full potential.