Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper, Inception) emerges as a writer and director in this comedy centred on a porn-addicted lothario by the name of Jon, also played by Joseph. His world changes when he comes across the gorgeous Barbara in a nightclub, played by the ever enchanting Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Match Point), and he falls for her instantly. Jon vows to give up porn for his beloved but it’s easier said than done. Inevitably things get complicated and Jon’s routine of daily and nightly self-gratification is threatened.
What makes this movie so effective is that it doesn’t shy away from anything, no matter how gritty and raw the subject may be. Every character is flawed in their own way. Barbara has unrealistic expectations about love and life due to her fixation with romantic Hollywood Blockbusters; Jon believes that real life sex will never compare to the fantasies he sees before him on his computer screen. When Julianne Moore’s (Magnolia, A Single Man) character Esther is added to the equation, things get really interesting. She steals the show with her performance as a vulnerable, damaged widow seeking escape through intimacy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cinematic style of this film. Jon’s weekly confessions to his priest break up the story nicely and emphasise the hypocrisy of his addiction; several Hail Mary’s later and all is forgiven. Jon goes back to his gym, family, friends and precious computer for sessions of endless, joyless masturbation, only to return a week later and confess again. The scenes in the nightclub where Jon meets Barbara and regularly picks up women for casual sex are comical, and parody the stereotypical animalistic style in which young men go about sleeping with women. In a sense the portrayal of Jon is that of the typical “douchebag”. He has a ripped body, tight clothing and a slick, gelled hairstyle. He knows he can have any woman he wants and he most certainly takes advantage of this, even if he gets no real pleasure from the encounters. Jon’s character openly admits that the sex he has is nowhere near as enjoyable as the porn he watches, but carries on in his quest for fulfilment regardless. What makes his character so complex is that he sees no problem with his addiction until the two main women in his life alter his perception. Until that point he believes that he can quit whenever he wants and that it has no real hold over him.
I look forward to seeing what else Joseph Gordon-Levitt has to offer as a writer and director, as his debut is nothing short of impressive. He chooses to tackle a subject matter that is no longer taboo and picks it apart for the audience to reveal the terrifying truth behind it. We spend a vast amount of our time on the internet, Jon’s usage of it extends to his sex life. This film leaves us questioning how easy it is to become addicted to what we may consider a normal part of our day to day lives. For Jon it’s the images and videos he uses to satisfy the instinctive desire that’s present within all of us. How far can we really condemn him? I’ll leave it to you to come to your own conclusion.