Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the set of Don Jon.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the set of Don Jon.
Photographer: Daniel McFadden

To his Jersey bros, Jon, pumped-up and meticulously manscaped, is the supreme ladies’ man. But unlike Molière’s tragic roué, this contemporary Don Juan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in his directorial debut), also has a habit she can’t kick: swooning over cloying romance movies, which she unironically regards as the model for real-life courtships.

“I think that in today’s media culture we’re stuck in this passive mode of spectatorship,” says Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote the script. “Like, what’s up with these two? They’re not engaging or expressing themselves at all—they’re just consuming fantasies.” Though biting, the comedic drama isn’t as dark as other recent films about sex and addiction, like 2011’s Shame or 2012’s Thanks for Sharing. “I’m an optimist,” Gordon-Levitt explains. “I wanted the film to have some hope.”