Early reviews of 'Don Jon's Addiction' + The cast at Sundance

"Only an actor as appealing as Joseph Gordon-Levitt could pull off the role he creates for himself in "Don Jon's Addiction," an endearingly masturbatory look at how a culture of objectification erodes our capacity for intimacy."

I'm only posting the full review to one and then snippets from the others.

Only an actor as appealing as Joseph Gordon-Levitt could pull off the role he creates for himself in "Don Jon's Addiction," an endearingly masturbatory look at how a culture of objectification erodes our capacity for intimacy. Serving up his directorial debut as the cherry atop a year of enormous career growth, the "Looper" star plays a lothario whose insatiable appetite for Internet porn stands in the way of a meaningful relationship. Jaunty handling of the taboo subject could also bar the way of a wide release, calling for a possible rethink of how the racy Sundance cut samples X-rated footage.

Once the scrawny kid from "3rd Rock From the Sun," Gordon-Levitt has filled out for the role of a modern-day Don Juan, who is first seen deep in the throes of onanism. Looking like a castaway from "Jersey Shore," gym-built, greasy-haired bartender Jon has been getting his jollies from explicit videos three, four, sometimes 10 times a day for so long, the real deal no longer thrills him.

This poses a challenge when he spies fantasy girl Barbara (Scarlett Johansson, looking like a live-action Jessica Rabbit) at the club. Sure, sex is fun, but not nearly as satisfying as porn, Jon explains in the film's flashy opening voiceover, articulating a troubling value shift few have had the courage to raise, while liberally illustrating the point with the visual stimuli on which he's come to rely for one-sided thrills.

Barbara insists on a more traditional courtship, however, dragging Jon to the movies, which supply equally unrealistic albeit more socially acceptable romantic expectations (courtesy of Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway, who cameo in clips for a "SNL"-worthy Nicholas Sparks sendup called "Special Someone"). When Barbara finally does give in and sleep with Jon, he still can't resist sneaking out of bed for a digital digestif, jeopardizing what's shaping up to be his first serious relationship when she catches him making love to his laptop.

Before meeting Barbara, all Jon cared about were his physique, his neat-freak apartment, his classic muscle car, his "boys" (Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke play his wingmen) and his "girls" (an ever-revolving cast of red-hot one-night stands). Being a good Catholic kid, he cares about family and church, too, though it's a running joke to see how the family (Tony Danza, Glenne Headley and Brie Larson) eats dinner and attends mass, rarely giving either matter their undivided attention. Sunday confession offers weekly absolution for Jon's carnal transgressions, and the meathead duly incorporates his prayer-reciting penance into his workout routine.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about "Don Jon's Addiction" is the fact that Gordon-Levitt could have spun a porn-free version of this love story as an all-audience crowdpleaser, but instead, he opted to engage with what's shaping up to be a real pandemic, as porn increasingly infects the expectations men put on the opposite sex. Where Steve McQueen's "Shame" took the more obtuse artfilm approach to this sex-obsessed phenom, Gordon-Levitt weaves the topic into a broadly accessible romantic comedy, one that ultimately uses its in-your face style to sneak a few old-fashioned insights about how self-centered guys can learn to respect their partners.

Porn isn't the only culprit here, either, as the pic implicates everything from body-baring advertisements to hand-me-down machismo (Danza, perfectly cast as Jon's caveman dad, complements his onscreen son on his new "piece of ass"). Gordon-Levitt's script can be a bit on-the-nose at times, but that's an indulgence easily forgiven in a debut feature, and this ensemble winningly sells the movie's tricky tonal mix -- none better than Julianne Moore, who plays an unexpected confidante Jon meets while attending night school, using her gift for nuance to spin a small part into the film's soul.

On the opposite extreme, guido culture takes a hit: Not since "The Sopranos" has Jersey's Italian-American contingent been so ruthlessly reduced -- although this time, the whackings are all self-inflicted. While the pic's bridge-and-tunnel stereotypes may border on the cartoonish, in the view of many American males, Jon is living the dream.

That's the mindset Gordon-Levitt so effectively manages to correct over the course of Jon's partial awakening. The self-assured helmer shows genuine affection for his characters, balancing their openly satiric qualities with a disarmingly sincere human center. Meanwhile, the film's visual style complements its slick lensing with flashy cutting, choosing angles that critique cinema's tendency to objectify by calling attention to that very language -- a strategy extended via carefully selected porn clips and Nathan Johnson's ironic club-music score."

"...Don Jon’s Addiction is much like its eponymous character: not much depth but quick, confident, amusing, and oddly endearing. The entire film quickly boils down to its core concept in the span of its frenetic intro: the eponymous character is afraid of intimacy. So who’s going to tear down that emotional wall? How will he learn his lesson? How can a lothario clearly based on “The Situation” from Jersey Shore ever learn to love? Director, writer, and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt knows his character inside and out, backwards and forwards, and finds the sweet, vulnerable heart of a guy who keeps Kleenex in business.

This playful tone is necessary for a lead character with an outsized personality. Gordon-Levitt and Johansson embrace their characters’ big Jersey-accents and obsession with the superficial. Like Gordon-Levitt, Johansson adds to depth to her character, although there’s less sympathy for the unyielding Barbara. However, the film acknowledges that these are kindred spirits in their selfishness. They’re not necessarily bad people, but they believe the world is there to serve their desires. But since this is Jon’s story, he’s the one who has to learn valuable life lessons such as there’s more to life than hitting the gym, meaningless sex, and fine-tuning the art of masturbating to Internet porn.

That lesson doesn’t seem too difficult, but Don Jon’s Addiction still seems to have difficulty teaching it since the script never finds an organic way to get Esther into the story. She’s a 180 from Barbara, but Esther always feels forced to be around Jon rather than having an organic connection to him. It’s a roundabout way to get to an easy lesson, and the film has to rush near the end to get Jon to his obvious destination. Again, Gordon-Levitt’s confident direction stops the film from going off the rails, but the plot strains trying to make Jon becomes a mature adult."

The Huffington Post:
"...Is it possible to make a feminist film about a porn addict? Viewers of "Don Jon's Addiction," the screenwriting and directing debut of actor Joseph Gordon Levitt, may find themselves arguing the point after watching this raunchy yet well-intentioned comedy about a New Jersey Lothario who can't stop pleasuring himself with the help of Internet smut.

At the Q&A following this morning's Sundance screening of the film, Levitt, who also tackles leading-man duties, invoked his mother's feminism and the compassionate Christianity of Martin Buber as he explained the film's genesis. "I wanted to tell a story about love, and in my observation what's always getting in the way of love is how people objectify each other," Levitt said. "Boys do it to girls and girls to it to boys."

"...In a sense, Gordon-Levitt has pulled off the anti-romcom, with a clever storyline, a talented cast and spectacular direction. This would be an admirable feat from any filmmaker, but coming from an A-lister like JGL, it’s both eye-opening and a bit improbable, especially if you take into consideration the success he’s had in the last year, starring in three certified blockbusters: “Lincoln,” “Looper” and “The Dark Knight Rises."

"...Still, there is a sitcom-y easiness to much of the humour — especially when Jon visits his stereotypical Italian-Catholic family. (Although, to be fair, Tony Danza gets a lot of comic mileage out of his portrayal of Jon’s big-palooka father.) This, juxtaposed with the more frank talk about men’s love of pornography and blowjobs, creates a sometimes pleasingly unpredictable comic rhythm that consistently undercuts the cutesiness of typical romantic comedies. Despite its lapses, Don Jon’s Addiction is at least a sex comedy with a little nerve to it, one that doesn’t just rely on “shocking” moments to wring laughs.

Gordon-Levitt’s usual charm goes a long way toward helping us warm up to a one-dimensional lout who eventually becomes less self-centred. But he’s helped immensely by a strong supporting turn from Moore, who plays a mild-mannered middle-aged woman he reluctantly befriends at a night class. In Don Jon’s Addiction, Moore gets to show two sides of her onscreen persona: the sympathetic, wounded soul, and the sneakily sensual minx. While other characters in Addiction border on the cartoonish, Moore alone feels like a real woman."

The Hollywood Reporter:
"...The ending suggests some possible serious impulses behind Gordon-Levitt’s intentions for this material, but while it’s true that you can’t really show the cure without exploring the sickness that necessitated it, the fact remains that the director positively luxuriates in his character’s addiction. There’s a heavy testosterone-driven pushiness, rather than a deeply felt sex drive as an elemental force of nature that’s crucial to this man’s self-expressiveness, that soon becomes obnoxious, and a lack of self-reflection that leaves Jon, and the film with him, frustratingly one-dimensional.

Both as a director and actor, Gordon-Levitt is switched on all the time, offering little shading or nuance. As Jon’s dad, Tony Danza is an amusing loudmouth whose estimation of his son goes up tenfold when he brings Barbara home for dinner; the older guy clearly wouldn’t mind some of that action himself. Johansson seems to enjoy playing a sex bomb several stages down in station from her real self, while Moore, after her character’s stumbling start, offers some provocative variations on the character of a needy, love-starved middle-aged woman."

The New York Post:
"...I couldn’t see the point of the film until two late scenes (both of them stolen by Moore) shed light on what porn addiction means and how it might be cured, and I’m not sure one shrewd insight is enough to sustain a 90-minute film. Moreover, for a long while I couldn’t figure out why Gordon-Levitt and the cast are so determined to emphasize the working-class nature of the characters. Surely, porn addiction is just as prevalent on Park Avenue as it is in Passaic. Did Johansson really need a stereotypical New Jersey accent? Wouldn’t she be the type of aspirational climber who would work hard to erase her accent? Why does Tony Danza have to be such a stock hot-tempered Italian-American lout? In his wife-beaters, he appears to be doing Jake La Motta in “Raging Bull.” Why does Gordon-Levitt keep emphasizing Jon’s earthy accent, his fondness for pumping iron and his Catholicism?

I think the answer is that Gordon-Levitt really, really doesn’t want us to think that he himself is a porn addict just because he made this film. He set the movie in the working class as a distancing device, and to give himself an opportunity to do a Sopranos accent and wear a distinctive hair style, a high-and-tight job with a lot of gel that Gordon-Levitt believes gets across the idea that this guy is a knucklehead. A far gutsier film might have explored what it was like for a character who resembles Gordon-Levitt to be addicted to porn. But then Gordon-Levitt would have to take his material a little more seriously instead of just going for cheap laughs. To me this is mostly a faux-edgy black comedy plagued by its two-dimensional characters, though it is redeemed by those surprisingly tender third-act scenes and Moore’s grounded performance."

For the tl;dr crowd, the movie is getting mixed reviews. Some people seemed to like it while others did like aspects of it but found that the script was too flat. However, the cast is getting good reviews, especiall Julianne Moore. Oh, and JGL's BFFs Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum make a cameo. In general, it's a film that you shouldn't take too seriously and I'd say is in line with other "sex comedies." Not too bad for a directorial debut.

I personally want to see it. I don't think it'll be awesome, but I think it'll be a fun time

Tony Danza, Julianne Moore, and JGL (missing: ScarJo)

At the premiere:
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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

At the after-party:

Cast portraits:

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