Love in the modern world is no easy feat. When you have a porn addiction, love becomes an even more unattainable concept. In Joseph Gordon-Levitt's debut writing and directing effort, Don Jon, the lines between need and addiction, love and abstraction are blurred. Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt), a quintessential New Jersey type (the guido aesthetic, greased hair, accent, etc.), will tell you he only cares about a few things in life: His body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and his porn. Obviously, the list should be reprioritized to put porn at the top--because it's a daily activity he can't go without. Unlike real sex, Jon can "lose himself" completely for those few minutes of masturbation in a way he can't during traditional boning. Enter Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), "the most beautiful thing" Jon has ever seen. Too blinded by her measurements, Jon can't see that she's the worst kind of New Jersey princess.
As Jon grows increasingly entranced by Barbara's spell, he starts to do things he never would have envisioned himself doing before--chiefly, not having sex every night as he waits for her to decide when she's finally going to give it up. Instead, Barbara does just enough to make him cum in his pants, causing his laundry regimen to get even more arduous. He even goes so far as to start taking a business night class at Barbara's behest (after all, being a bartender is so gauche). After Barbara catches him watching porn and threatens to leave him if she sees him do it again, Jon takes to watching it on his phone. A fellow classmate, Esther (Julianne Moore), glimpses what he's watching as she's trying to apologize for crying in front of him the week before. Denying her accusation, Jon grudgingly accepts her apology. It is this sort of grumbling, offbeat rapport that sets the tone for Jon and Esther to be able to talk about anything.
When Barbara finally gives up the holy grail--her vagina--it still isn't what Jon thought it would be. And so, he goes on with letting out his frustrations (both sexual and otherwise) out through watching porn. In his view, the buildup to orgasm and the money shot can never be trumped by sex with Barbara. And, though he doesn't realize it yet, this revelation leaves him feeling emptier than when he was simply having one-night stands. As things between him and Barbara shift from the honeymoon phase to the tenser, arguing phase, she shows her true colors even further by giving Jon shit for cleaning his own apartment. The fact that she tries to mold Jon throughout their entire relationship should have been an indication to both him and every objective outsider that she's an asshole. Unfortunately, the only person who seems to see this is Jon's sister, Monica (Brie Larson, who may have the best role in the movie), whose constant silence makes one of her only statements in the third act have more clout than anything else others in Jon's life have said.
After snooping around on his computer, Barbara discovers the severity of Jon's porn addiction and immediately breaks up with him. This sends him right into the arms of Esther, who Jon somehow feels a natural affinity with--a comfortableness that is usually reserved for two people who have known each other their whole lives. Jon and Esther confess details to one another that they wouldn't ordinarily share with anyone. Esther, for instance, tells Jon that her husband and son died in a car crash fourteen months ago, while Jon tells her that sex has never been as good for him as porn. Esther suggests that perhaps the reason Jon feels this way is because he fucks women in a one-sided fashion--totally detached from the body attached to him in the moment.
As Jon comes to terms with his porn addiction and how it relates to his approach to sex, he starts to see that maybe there is such a thing as a happy ending--though not how you pictured it to be, and never quite so perfect as they make it out to be in the movies. What one takes away from Don Jon is that the only people worth impressing are the people who accept you as you are, in all your absurd, idiosyncratic glory--because only then will you change of your own volition.