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Joseph Gordon-Levitt awkwardly explores porn addiction in ‘Don Jon’

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson are “Jersey Shore” refugees in “Don Jon.”

Two stars

Don Jon Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore. Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Just before it ends, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writing and directing debut Don Jon starts to explore a fascinating relationship between the porn-addicted New Jersey meathead title character (Gordon-Levitt) and an emotionally damaged but sexually free-spirited older woman (Julianne Moore). It’s an unconventional and unexpected pairing that presents a wide range of narrative possibilities, but just as it’s getting started, the movie’s over.

The previous hour is spent in the singularly unpleasant company of the cartoonish Jon and his equally cartoonish girlfriend Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a pair of Jersey Shore refugees in an obviously doomed relationship. Gordon-Levitt treats Jon’s porn addiction mostly as fodder for lame comedy, along with his family full of loud-mouthed Italian stereotypes. Despite its barrage of sexually explicit images, the movie comes off as remarkably judgmental and prudish, especially when viewed from Barbara’s perspective. It’s only when Moore enters the picture that the story opens up, mirroring Jon’s own evolution from seeking instant gratification to allowing himself to be truly vulnerable. But even then, Gordon-Levitt can’t resist returning to Jon’s sitcom-style family or giving Barbara one last heavy-handed send-off. The final moments hint at beauty and grace in Jon’s new relationship, but for the movie, it’s already too late.

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