Don Jon (2013)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and stars in the adult-comedy. Joseph plays Don Jon an egotistical, New Jersey man who has a specific routine: gym, church, friends, family and sex. Lots of sex in fact. Don Jon is a modern-day Don Juan. Consumed with an overwhelming addiction to porn, Don disconnects from everyone around him. In his warped mindset, porn is better than actual sex. He constantly searches for that one “catch” that will “satisfy” his insatiable and unrealistic sexual expectations.
During a regular night out with his friends, he spots “the most beautiful girl he ever laid his eyes on.” Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a ravishingly, beautiful woman who likewise suffers from an unrealistic expectation of what a man should be based on her obsession with romantic movies. After slowly falling in love with Sugarman, Don tries to thwart his obsessive tendencies. Barbara “suggests” Don go to night-school to get a “better” and higher paying job.
There he meets Esther (Julianne Moore), an older woman, who attempts to befriend the title character. Her outlook in life is conversely different from Barbara’s. Not only does she not care that Don watches porn, she suggests he watch “better porn.”
Don Jon is a social commentary, through comedy, on the oversexualization of society. In addition it highlights the impractical expectations romantic movies instill on impressionable women of what “real romance” looks like. Joseph smartly pinpoints the absurdity of the American culture in such instances.
While there are some good laughs throughout the movie, I unfortunately saw many of them via the trailer or from clips while the actors promoted the film. I felt Don Jon’s character was too closely alike to “The Situation” from MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” I should note Joseph said he had never even heard of the show when he created the character. I unfortunately only know of him because he competed on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
I felt the plot kept regurgitating the fact he was obsessed with porn and incessantly expressed the same point. I wished they explored the effects on his interpersonal relationships as a result of his addiction to a greater extent. While many think this a porn movie, I should stress to those that this movie is about a man addicted to porn. There is a difference. The combination of Don and Barbara’s addictions form an interesting conflict.
Personally I had much higher expectations of the film. Unfortunately the film did not live up to those expectations. While a commendable directorial debut for one of my favorite young actors, I think the film’s flaws tarnish any merit of excellence. As for the acting I think all the actors performed well. I think Tony Danza, who played Don’s father, was a bit underutilized.
For a movie that critiqued unoriginal and cliché endings, I thought the ending to this film wasn’t terribly original. The last 20 minutes of the film were a bit awkward and clumsy for my taste. This movie isn’t awful. It simply isn’t exceptional. You should go watch this film if you are looking for a relatively short film that is humorous and interesting. Just don’t expect to be amazed.
MPAA rating: R (strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use)
Running Time: 90 minutes
My Grade: B-
Twitter: @adrakontaidis & @talkrealdebate