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September 27, 2013

Hardly obscene

'Don Jon' project isn't as unseemly as it may seem

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a mild obsession with patterns. He sees them everywhere. There are the necessary ones — the sun rises, the sun sets; we inhale, we exhale — and the helpful routines that give our days structure. But there are also detrimental patterns, and those are the kind that inspired Gordon-Levitt’s first foray into feature screenwriting and directing.

“Don Jon” follows a modern-day Don Juan, played by Gordon-Levitt, who spends plenty of time picking up ladies at bars but much prefers the mindless and emotion-free pleasures of pornography. He might call it a habit, but it looks an awful lot like addiction. He’s a connoisseur of sorts. His Web browsing is perfectly regimented, consisting of a to-do list he checks off many times a week and sometimes multiple times a day. Even after he meets a “10” named Barbara (played by Scarlett Johansson) and strikes up a relationship, he can’t seem to escape the siren song of his laptop rebooting.

While “Don Jon” turns into a complex portrayal with a surprisingly sweet message, early chatter surrounding the movie focused mainly on the pornography element.

“I had the script and somebody said, ‘Oh, Joe Gordon-Levitt wrote this script and it’s about porn,’ and I was like, ‘Ugh, OK,’” recalled actress Julianne Moore. She plays the off-kilter and straight-talking Esther, who becomes Jon’s unlikely friend. “And I started reading it, and I looked up halfway through, and I said [to my husband], ‘This isn’t about porn. This is amazing.’ Really, it’s a movie about intimacy to me. I found it really surprising, really touching, very, very funny, very original and I was completely taken with it.”

In some ways, that disconnect between how the movie has been perceived and the true nature of the film couldn’t be more appropriate.

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