Berlin Film Festival review: Don Jon's Addiction from Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring Scarlett Johansson 'is not just about porn'

Crude stereotypes offer little insight into addiction or intimacy but Scarlett Johannsson is seductive, whiney and very funny

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The Independent Culture

Don Jon's Addiction may be about a man whose proudest moment comes when he ups his daily porn quota from ten to 11, but it is not, insists its star/director/writer, about porn.

This is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hotly anticipated directorial debut, about Jon Mortello, a cocky Italian-American guy from New Jersey who loves the gym, the ladies and, most of all, online porn. So much so that he prefers it to sex with real women.

But rather than being a seedy examination of the porn industry the film is,actually about intimacy says Gordon-Levitt. Jon is a man who objectifies everything, keeping everyone at arm's length: women, friends, religion. He goes to church with his family every Sunday, dutifully disclosing  his weekly exploits in the confessional, but the closest he gets to real engagement is a look of wry amusement when their priest lowers his Hail Mary's.

Women are a numbers game, too. He and his friends grade them one to 10 on looks ("I'm telling you, those twos and threes are some open-minded ladies," chirps the lesser sidekick) but then he meets the gorgeous Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) who is "a dime",  a "nine" and just the girl to make Jon change his ways. She makes him enroll in a night class to get a better job "because suits are sexy" and and forbids him from talking about housework "cause it isn't sexy". Johansson's performance as manipulative princess is spot on: seductive, whiney and very funny.

Eventually of course, Barbara calls Jon on his porn addiction, everything goes a bit t**s up, so to speak, and Jon is forced to acknowledge his own shortcomings. Enter Esther, a hippy with a tragic past played by Julianne Moore, who arrives just in time to teach Jon how to interact with the world on, like, a deeper level.

Gordon-Levitt has cited as his inspiration for the script the sort of offbeat humour typical of Tarantino and the Coen brothers. But as those directors have shown, that kind of humour can be very hit and miss. This film is slick and stylish, with an upbeat soundtrack and over-the-top porn clips sliced amusingly with Jon's expressions (less than impressed when the man appears in the shot at a crucial moment).

For a first time director Gordon-Levitt has a good sense of pace too, with regular trips to church, the gym and the local club keeping the film moving merrily along. 

But the whole thing is a bit heavy-handed, offering little real insight into the nature of addiction or even domestic bliss. Most personalities here are crude stereotypes, from Jon's wife-beater-wearing roughneck dad, to his sex-obsessed pals. If we are here to learn about intimacy, it stills feels rather superficial.

Still, Gordon-Levitt himself is hugely likeable, as ever, and the talented cast will be enough to draw audiences. When it comes to serious topics like addiction this is no Shame or Leaving Las Vegas. But as a simple and sweet coming-of-age story for the Jersey Shore generation, it's perfectly entertaining stuff.