More than meets the eye
DON JON (R21)
DON Jon is the kind of movie that has an undeniably divisive effect on both critics and audiences.
At its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the United States earlier this year, the feature-film writing and directorial debut from actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) garnered rave reviews.
But, since then, it has also come under fire for, among other things, its ostensible objectification of women and its perpetuation of cultural stereotypes.
Indeed, the Italian-American New Jersey natives which the movie is centred on all speak with over-the-top accents that seem more comical caricatures than actual relatable characters.
Gordon-Levitt himself stars in the titular role of Jon Martello, a meathead of a bartender who seems to be modelled after Jersey Shore's Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino.
Now, Jon is not your typical likeable character - he's a porn addict who treats women like they're disposable.
But there's something about the way his disarming story grabs you that makes you feel you're privvy to an inside joke, and that Gordon-Levitt, 32, meant to exploit as many cliches as he has here.
Jon may be so good with the ladies that he is nicknamed "The Don", but he is still unfulfilled by his various sexual conquests, turning instead to pornography to satisfy himself.
Even when he starts seeing Barbara Sugarman (played with Snooki-esque, bubblegum-snapping swagger by Scarlett Johansson), who wants to shape him into her ideal man and won't stand for the porn-watching habit, the guy just can't resist.
When Barb persuades (read: insists) he signs up for a night class, Jon meets Esther (Julianne Moore), an odd older woman who begins to get under his skin.
That's when the plot starts to truly develop, transforming what I had earlier written off as a shallow raunchfest into something deeper and more intimate.
Don Jon is not without its missteps, such as its rushed ending and missed opportunities for character development.
But Gordon-Levitt clearly isn't afraid to take risks with his movie-making, especially where the subject matter is concerned.
And, if his intelligent past choices of movie roles are anything to go by, he surely knows the makings of a good film.
Methinks that once he finds his directing feet proper, we'll see lots more quality flicks from this young Hollywood A-lister.