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Arts and Entertainment

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Does Triple Duty In 'Don Jon,' His Film About A Porn-Addicted Bartender

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Looper) is a triple threat in his latest film, Don Jon. Not only does he star as a porn-addicted guido from New Jersey, but he also wrote and directed the film. (He doesn’t sing or dance in this one, which is probably a good thing, because then he’d be a quintuple threat—and that would promptly blow our minds.)

At a members-only LA Times Indie Focus Screening event at the Sundance Sunset Cinemas on Thursday night, we had a chance to watch an advance screening of the film, scheduled for release next week (Sept. 27). Following the film, there was a conversation and Q&A with Gordon-Levitt as well as the film’s cinematographer Thomas Kloss, editor Lauren Zuckerman and composer Nathan Johnson.

Don Jon, of course, is an updated version of the legendary literary figure Don Juan, seducer of women. Gordon-Levitt’s Jon is the tank-top / tight muscle shirt-wearing guy who spends his time away from work in the “service industry” (aka bartender) in loud clubs rating the girls with his friends (played by Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke). Jon picks up a girl every time, only to be disappointed when the real sex doesn’t compare to the stuff he sees in online. He’d rather masturbate to the right porn clip—so he can lose himself in the moment—and he does this. A lot.

Jon is also dedicated to his family and his church, making it a point to attend mass every Sunday—where he confesses his sins and weekly exploits to a priest—before attending Sunday dinner with his mom (Glenne Headly), dad (a terrifically lecherous Tony Danza) and sister (Brie Larson, who says nothing most of the film, but steals a scene with the line she does have). Things get complicated for our lothario when he meets his perfect girl Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, and asks him to stop with the porn. She wants to make him a better man. Things then get even more confusing when he meets an older woman, Julianne Moore.

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During the post-screening Q&A LA Times writer Mark Olsen asked Gordon-Levitt and team about the film’s themes around technology and human interaction. Rather than condemning technology as a deterrent to growing meaningful relationships, Gordon-Levitt acknowledged the importance of 21st century communication in history: “Media is becoming this conversational thing,” he said of sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. But he also warned, “We often develop unrealistic expectations from these relationships on screen.”

It’s not just about porn, Gordon-Levitt said, but also about the romantic comedies out there that can lead to disappointing real-life relationships. “They [Jon and Barbara] are objectifying each other.”

While most of the questions were directed toward Gordon-Levitt, the director made it a point to give his team props. “This is a collaboration,” he said. “There’s not movie without these three.” Kloss, who’s worked with a number of recognizable names in both the music and film industry, said he was doubtful—at first—that the newbie feature director would be able to pull the writing, directing and acting off all at once. Kloss was quickly converted to a believer. “[He] could perform on multiple levels on a daily basis,” said Kloss. “I didn’t see him trip too many times.”

Of course, the Don Jon evening wouldn’t be complete without a question about all those porn clips that Gordon-Levitt and editor Zuckerman had to watch to find just the right ones to illustrate certain lines and voiceovers. "It was very tedious,” he said. “It took f*cking forever.”

Don Jon opens in theaters on Sept. 27.