Earlier this month, Thanks for Sharing presented sex addiction as an almost quirky modern problem, its characters bouncing around glossy Manhattan while they met cute and, y'know, struggled with dark and consuming urges. Not sure if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama, the film awkwardly pitched itself somewhere in between, interlacing emotional epiphanies with snarky banter and pratfall gags. Similarly, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon, which he wrote, directed, and stars in, presents a crippling porn addiction as a hurdle a young mook has to jump over in order to come of age. The serious implications of the addiction are barely addressed, used rather cheaply as a convenient plot obstruction before being neatly discarded to ensure a happy-enough ending.

That said, there's plenty to like in Gordon-Levitt's assured feature directing debut. Setting his film in a slightly cartoon-y version of northern New Jersey, everything bright and garishly lit, Gordon-Levitt builds a likable world of puffed-up bros and girls teetering around in heels, dresses tight as sausage casing. The decor almost resembles the cheapo sets of the porn movies that Gordon-Levitt's Jon is so religiously obsessed with. But like those anonymous, DNA-splattered bedrooms and hot tubs, there's a darkness, and maybe even a kind of moral ache, flickering in the corners of Jon's world. Gordon-Levitt's script, though loaded with dirty talk, floats along cleverly and humanely. He deals earnestly with some pretty basic values  — love, family, religion — adding only a few dashes of irony or cynicism. 

Jon is a devout Catholic who nonetheless masturbates to hard core pornography several times a day and beds as many club-going women as he can. He then confesses it all on Sunday and begins the cycle anew. Like the Jersey Shore fellas' GTL (Gym, Tan, Laundry) credo, Jon has his own sacred routine: He works out (while saying the Our Fathers and Hail Marys assigned to him in confession), he fastidiously cleans his place, he sees his folks, he hangs with his boys, and he loses himself in his porn. (That activity has its own cherished routine, which Jon details for us in sections of the film's frequent, increasingly tiresome voiceover.) Though we eventually find out that he's a bartender, we never see Jon work. It's as if his life is a closed circuit of personal gratification and familial obligations, this not-that-young man living thoughtlessly on impulse. It's a well-drawn character in many ways, though I never fully bought Gordon-Levitt in the role. He's too wily and intellectual an actor, and his mischievous, almost vulpine features don't communicate the right kind of broad-faced oafishness that this kind of guy needs to have. This maybe would have worked better with Channing Tatum.

Who does succeed admirably in her role is Scarlett Johansson, playing Barbara, a whole lotta woman whom Jon meets at a club and instantly falls for. It initially seems that Johansson is simply doing a variation on her beloved "Marble Columns" character from Saturday Night Live, but when you look closer there really is a full person there, off-putting and bratty and manipulative as she might be. Gordon-Levitt writes her well, though I detected a whiff of something slightly problematic in how thoroughly she's painted as an opportunistic, uncompromising siren. Elsewhere, Julianne Moore turns in a quiet, soulful performance as an older woman who takes an interest in Jon, while Tony Danza startles, in a funny way, as Jon's profanity spewing father.

So yes, the film has its strengths. But the way it presents a difficult topic only to walk away once the 90 minutes are over still bothers me. Jon does grapple with his porn addiction, making both sincere and insincere attempts to cut back or quit, and eventually he does learn something about why he prefers porn to actual sex, locating an important and deeply ingrain flaw in his thinking. But it all happens so quickly, so easily, that I can't help but feel that it's mildly insulting to those actually grappling with the disease. The film is also a tad insulting to real-life Tri-State mooks and mookettes. The way the film symbolizes Jon's coming of age, his growth toward a truer and more fulfilling life, involves him shedding the trappings of his old ways. But hey, what's wrong with gelling your hair and lifting weights and going to nightclubs? If that's what makes you happy, so be it! There's an air of snobbishness in the film's messaging, and it suddenly makes mean what had largely been a kind, even gentle picture.

Gordon-Levitt tried to tackle a complicated issue for his first film out of the gate, and he succeeds in many aesthetic ways. But just as Thanks For Sharing does, Don Jon ultimately throws its hands up when confronted with the real breadth of that complexity. I suppose they could be considered noble efforts in that they at least attempt to sensitively address this thorny issue, but both frustratingly take the easy way out in the end. At least Don Jon's got some style to it, a swagger that may be overconfident, but still looks pretty good walking into the room.