Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Added Direction

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt is sexy, right? I gather that he is based on the swooning I’ve witnessed when he comes up in conversation. There are these Buzzfeed articles on him being The Perfect Man and Encroaching on the Sexiest Man Alive. A friend of mine shares an apartment with two other girls, and their fridge is plastered with magazine cut outs of handsome men, JGL included. One has to think, especially based on his directing and screen writing debut, “Don Jon,” that Gordon-Levitt has thought about all of this. Sex. And appeal. To be sexy and a sex-symbol. To hang on a New York City refrigerator indefinitely.

Gordon-Levitt plays Jon, a buff, New Jersey lothario, who, despite his many formidable conquests finds the most satisfaction in masturbating to porn. He is addicted. Addicted to porn, yes, but more so the false constructs of a hollow world and shallow life. He thinks settling down with Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, will fulfill him, but nothing and nobody can do for him what a web browser does.

There’s plenty to take away from “Don Jon,” about cultural perceptions of love and sex, imposed expectations, and personal fulfillment. Performances from Gordon-Levitt, Johansson, and the resurrected Tony Danza give those finer points legs, and the film a charming magnetism. That sex and profanity are thrown about in such cavaliered excess, helps establish the moral depths we’ll be charting. Jon has sex, masturbates, goes to church for forgiveness, works-out, and lives this life on repeat. Everything is physical to him because that’s all he knows.  He lacks the emotional understanding to realize the repetitive and futile nature of his existence and quest for ‘something’. His thrills are cheap. He is the product of an environment that champions the wrong principles and is so lost within it that he doesn’t yet know he’s lost.

There’s a great humor throughout the film, typically executed by the above three actors. Gordon-Levitt plays Jon to the high standard that we’ve come to expect from his acting, and Johansson wraps her familiar beauty in a Jersey-brand plastic that’s mesmerizing. Though Jon is the protagonist, she is at the film’s center, the apple of his ill-adjusted eye.

Gordon-Levitt’s however, is in focus here, a satisfying debut that considers the way sex has been defined by the media, and the generation that suffers from subscribing to it.

-Ted

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