Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the titular Jon “Don Jon” Martello, Jr. in his directorial debut, which he also wrote. The quintessential New Jersey-Italian native dubbed “Don Jon” by his friends (Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke), due to his ability to “pull dimes” with regularity at clubs, Jon nevertheless has an unfulfilled sex life. Despite the constant attention he receives from gorgeous women, the sex never feels as good as when he’s watching porn. In short, porn offers endless possibilities while real sex has rules and emotions to worry about. For Jon, the former trumps the latter every time.

His life revolves around clubbing, taking care of his ride, lifting weights, dinner with his family, and going to church. Oh yea, and porn. It’s not an addiction in the sense that he can’t function without it perpetually in his view, but it certainly is a constant, daily presence in his life and dictates his feelings towards women. For Jon, sex is the only thing women have to give him. That is until he notices Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) at a club one night and is immediately smitten. Unlike most women, who are mere playthings for Jon, Barbara plays hard to get and Jon actually pines over her for more than one night. He pursues her and soon they’re in a relationship, to the delight of his mother Angela (Glenne Headley) and to the amusing envy of his father Jon, Sr. (Tony Danza).

Just as Jon’s emotional spectrum is molded by his porn viewing, Barbara’s is an extension of her love for romantic comedies — the major difference being that Jon’s is socially unacceptable, and therefore a secret, while Barbara’s is something she forces on him. For her, the perfect love is a fairy tale on the woman’s terms. At first, however, their relationship appears to be healthy and mature. Jon’s in a monogamous relationship — possibly for the first time — and he’s at least attempting to curb his porn watching. Barbara pushes him to take a night class, but only because she recognizes that being a bartender probably won’t lend itself to a future career. It’s at these classes that Jon comes across Esther (Julianne Moore), an older woman who doesn’t view his porn addiction as disgusting but more of a crutch. She provides the crux of a serious third act twist that can seem jarring, but it brings what was merely amusing into something more meaningful.

Don Jon is the exploration of one man’s emotional maturation in a society that’s riddled with fake love. Whether it’s porn, romantic comedies, one night stands, etc., Jon lives in a world where human connection isn’t valued. Gordon-Levitt undercuts the uncomfortable nature of porn addiction with rich humor but also imbues it with a heartfelt sincerity as Jon suddenly finds himself questioning his life choices. Buoyed by a fantastic supporting cast, with Scarlett Johansson nailing the New Jersey-Italian accent perfectly in possibly her best role in years, Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes a strong first impression as a writer and director.

Rating: 4 out of 5