"Gordon-Levitt has created a highly stylised world in which Jon takes centre stage"

There is a long history in Hollywood of A-list actors stepping behind the camera and trying their hand at directing. Recent years have seen George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Affleck turn to more personal projects, all with relative success, the latter taking home Best Picture at this year's Oscars with Argo. It is rare, however, for an actor to move into directing when they are seemingly at the peak of box office success, the coming months will see three such cases. Ryan Gosling and James Franco are both putting the finishing touches to films but the youngest of the three, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is first out of the gates with his self-penned Don Jon, an off-beat rom-com focussing on pornography addiction.

Gordon-Levitt plays the eponymous Jon, a dashing Jack-the-lad with an obsessive personality. Jon dresses immaculately, works out regularly, keeps his apartment spotless and attends confession without fail every Sunday, in spite of this (or perhaps because of this) he is unable to form intimate relationships with women, resulting in him being a serial lothario. Jaded perhaps by his womanising, Jon gains more enjoyment from the unreal world of internet pornography than he does from his sexual conquests.

In a clever counterpoint, Jon meets the immensely attractive Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who enjoys nothing more than getting lost in the realms of Hollywood's sickly-sweet romantic movies. The two form a relationship that, unlike both of their obsessions, feels miles away from a happy ending. Along the way Barbara is introduced to Jon's parents, brilliantly played by Glenne Headly and Tony Danza, but it's only on meeting the older Esther (Julianne Moore) that Jon is given an opportunity to change his ways.

Gordon-Levitt has created a highly stylised world in which Jon takes centre stage; through his own eyes, Jon is a star that the rest of the world revolves around. Every time he spots an attractive woman the same ludicrous bass synth blazes through the cinema's sound system before cutting instantly to the couple inevitably 'getting it on'. Every moment feels pushed to the extremities of caricature; his sister, for example, barely says a word through the entire film, unable as she is to be torn away from her smartphone. When Jon and Barbara go to the cinema they must choose between an absurdly saccharine rom-com and a steroidal action movie bloodbath (in 3D obviously).

These absurd moments work because, despite the advertising telling you otherwise, Don Jon is not a comedy. The dialogue is surprisingly light in the way of laugh-out-loud moments but this is actually to the film's benefit. Despite the unconventional set-up and stylised, slightly contrived scenes, Don Jon genuinely feels believable in a way few rom-coms ever do. When Jon explains why he prefers porn to real sex you might not agree with him, but you can still understand his point of view, and when Esther turns up to teach him a few things about intimacy, you go along with it as an audience, despite a sudden shift in the film's pace. Gordon-Levitt has great flair as a director and gets solid performances from his cast. If Don Jon is anything to go by, his box office stock as both actor and director isn't going to fall any time soon.