A portrait of a sweet, ditzy porn addict, Don Jon opens to a flickering neon cartoon image. It’s only fitting for this tale that skates over any nuanced depictions of contemporary sexuality and love in favour of a tilt-a-whirl of Bugs Bunny caricatures.
Like the proverbial Don Juan, our titular man Jon—Joseph Gordon-Levitt costumed as a kind of yuppie Pauly D—is a lover of women, though he has a distinct preference for the double-teamed, pixelated kind and the comfort of his own hand. Following Jon’s attempts at a ‘regular’ relationship, the film is noisy and glossed with rusty micro-glitter of New Jersey typology. This surface focus makes sense in that Don Jon is pretty much a comedy of manners, playing on the limitations and patterns of dating, from the Freytag’s pyramid of pornographic narrative, to the rigidity of gender roles performed in traditional heterosexual relationships. JGL’s cut-out characters never quite make the leap from their cut-out lives into emotional depth or revelation, leaving the whole set-up a little hollow.
Walking the path of writer-director-leading man is a venture lined with traps and highwaymen, but JGL, that universal charmer, gets through with humility intact and Garden State sentimentality avoided. While you get the sense that he’s batting in a lower league than he could be, Don Jon is ultimately a pleasant piece of candy to chew on for 90 minutes. It’s at the very least a kind-hearted, older-brother’s wedgie to the romantic comedy premise.