Overview: A young, Italian-American struggles to hide his love for porn and masturbation from his smoking hot new girlfriend. Relativity Media; 2013; Rated R; 90 Minutes.
Joe. Joe. Joe…: Everyone loves Joseph Gordon Levitt. The dimples, that punching chin, the grin, the ability to switch smoothly from aloof arrogance to endearing nervousness. He works best as awkwardly charming ((500) Days of Summer) or as a manifestation of handsome goodness (The Dark Knight Rises). Flatly stated, he shouldn’t go here. I’m not trying to pigeonhole or typecast. I don’t mean to say that Levitt needs to stick to two kinds of roles, just that he should avoid this one. Not Don. This rooster-chested, beefed up, slick-haired, club-dwelling stereotype is too played out, too annoyingly familiar in our Jersey Shore- poisoned pop-culture to make any decent use of Levitt’s inherent likability. From his opening explicit confession to porn routine to his strategic and sexist dance floor hunting strategies—we just don’t like this version of Joseph enough to want to listen to this kind of talk.
Let’s Make a Sequel (In 30 Years): Perhaps, thirty years down the line, Don’s character would be worth revisiting. I say this because the best part of this film is Tony Danza, Don’s father, a character who wears a known stereotype well. In the predictable chaos of Italian family dinners and amplified discourse, Tony Danza rises above all other topics and speakers, at once noxiously offensive but somehow likable and sincere. No one wears their simplified stereotype better in this movie, least of all Scarlett Johansson whose stone-cold foxiness is constantly compromised by her offensive and gross high pitched dialect.
A Tug Too Many; An Unfortunate Stain: I gotta admit. I don’t get the point. I mean, I understand the overall theme that being comfortable and open in your own identity is a necessary precursor to establishing health and happiness in any relationship, but why porn? Any other hobby obstacle works here. Don loves My Little Pony in secret and hides them under his bed. Don obsessively collects 1943 silver pennies and runs his hands through bins of coin every evening. Any of these substituted discoveries and the movie maintains the same message. The only thing compromised would be the traditional Don Juan connection, which is already loose at best. The application of such a specifically sexual obsession should add… something. I think of 2011’s (humorless) Shame, wherein sex addiction created alienation, loneliness, an inability to function in social setting, real pain and anguish. In 2008’s under-appreciated Palahniuk adaptation Choke, the sex fiends establish situational humor in their addictions. Just displaying these sorts of addiction, however, is neither funny nor exploratory. Here, it seems the addiction to porn is just a case of Levitt’s confusing vulgarity with edginess, exhibitionism with courage.
Overall: Levitt, in his first attempt, doesn’t fit as comfortably in the writer’s room or the director’s chair and the whole exercise comes across as an indulgence of ego. Dare I describe it as masturbatory?
Grade: D +