– Summary –
Director : Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke.
Approx Running Time : 90 Minutes
Synopsis: Jon Martello is a modern day Don Juan, with a short list of things he cares about: “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn”. Although he has an active sex life with women he meets at nightclubs, he looks at pornography on the Internet habitually, preferring it to sex.
What we think : Delightful dramatic comedy from first time director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon is one of those kinds of clever debut films that sneaks out of nowhere and delivers some surprisingly good viewing.
Like Shame, only funnier.
If you’re reading this, there’s a fair chance you’re on the internet. If you’re on the internet, there’s an equally fair chance you know about porn. The internet has become the dominant playground of pornographers since the ability to upload video was introduced, allowing the industry to proliferate to enormous proportions; even the most obscure or user-friendly search term in the Googly might still somehow bring up a connection to porn these days, although filters and site blockers seem to have put paid to a lot of unwanted material creeping through. Still, good old porn, watched by red-blooded men and women the world over, is as ubiquitous with the internet as Justin Beiber is with making an ass of himself. Don Jon, directed by debut helmer Joseph Gordon-Levitt (yes, the one and the same dude who played “Robin” in The Dark Knight Rises and donned prosthetics to look more like Bruce Willis in Looper), is a funny, smart and sexy film about one man’s inability to look past porn throughout his relationships, and how it brings him undone.
Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a modern day “Play-ah”, hooking up with random women he and his friends meet in nightclubs. Jon lives a markedly shallow life, caring only about a number of things, including (but especially) his porn, which he find more fulfilling than actual sex. One night, he meets a woman, Barbara (Scarlett Johannson), and tracks her down to try and sleep with her. Eventually the two begin dating, until Jon is busted watching porn late one night after having sex with her. Initially he dodges a relationship breakup, thanks to a lie, but Barbara later discovers his internet browser history is filled with porn sites, long after he claims to have stopped looking at it. Jon, post-break-up with Barbara, meets an older woman, Esther (Julianne Moore), and the pair begin a mutually exclusive sexual relationship; it’s at this point that Jon starts to learn that porn and random sex with strangers isn’t the most fulfilling lifestyle choice he could be making.
Like Steve McQueen’s Shame (with Michael Fassbender), pornography and the use of it within a relationship – or, at the expense of a relationship other than simple casual sex – isn’t something most audiences are used to seeing, nor is it the kind of story many people actually want to see. Don Jon is a lot like Shame in many ways, largely with the lead character who cannot overcome an addiction to porn even when they want to, which isn’t that often. Unlike Shame, however, Don Jon is played more as a dramatic comedy, with a terrific leading performance by Gordon-Levitt as Jon, Tony Danza as Jon’s foul-mouthed, misogynistic father, and Julianne Moore as the tragic Esther. Gordon-Levitt has surrounded himself with some terrific actors, all of whom deliver a sly, winking performance that elicits alternately saddening, gut-busting moments of pathos and warmth. Gordon-Levitt, in particular, makes Jon, a thoroughly horrid human being, rather likeable in that broken-toy kinda way.
Jon’s a misogynist, spending his life hanging out in nightclubs with this two friends, “rating” the hotties they want to “bang”, with Jon managing a streak of women no lower that “8’s”. Even after sleeping with some of these woman – most of whom are supermodel hot – he still sneaks a quick wank to some porn late at night, finding this more satisfying. Women are objects, things to be objectified, and thanks to his equally misogynistic father, he’s quite comfortable with that. Jon’s arc with Barbara is yet another conquest, although her inevitable discovery of his porn habits, which leads to his relationship dissolving, brings about the impetus for him to change. Don Jon brings a truthfulness in amongst the humor and salacious dialog, which is confronting in some aspects, and yet expected in others. Gordon-Levitt’s performance is utterly masculine, totally believable, and reprehensible at the same time – yet, like a little child, you kinda want him to change for the better. It’s his journey of discovery that makes for fascinating watching.
Scarlet Johannson is terrific as the starry-eyed romantic Barbara, who digs her claws into Jon and in an almost inevitable way, pushes him away with her passive-aggressive subversion of all he holds dear. The axiom of women finding a man to love, and trying to change him into one they can marry, holds true for Barbara’s character; she’s hot, unattainable, and utterly insane. Julianne Moore is easily the shining light of the film, her powerhouse acting style contrasting with the more fantastical nature of the Jon/Barbara arc. Watching Moore work here is a delight. Tony Danza, as Jon’s equally masculine father, is a hoot. Danza takes the role of the leering, beer-chugging, football-lovin’ father and absolutely slays with it. He’s brilliant.
Gordon-Levitt has obviously worked with some of the best Hollywood directors, DP’s and production people across his career, so it makes sense that Don Jon has a polished, assured sense of style about it. The film is sharply helmed, edited with precision and with a sense of sly humor that seeps through the pores and onto the screen. It has a bit to say about the one-night-stand relationships some people engage in, the way men view women as objects rather than people (having said that, there’s something to the fact that a lot of the girls depicted in Don Jon aren’t exactly refusing to be treated this way, so swings and roundabouts, really), and if you can find humor in this kind of testosterone-driven lifestyle, Don Jon is the film for you. It’s fresh, funny and well directed by Gordon-Levitt, and definitely worth a look.
© 2014 – 2018, Rodney Twelftree. All rights reserved.