Don Jon is a finely written and produced film by Joseph Gordon Levitt that explores porn addiction in a macho man who has trouble getting outside himself to see another person's point of view. Don Jon (Levitt) objectifies everything in his life--women, his body, his car, even his church. He is highly disciplined in his work-outs, his schedule, and driving, and when anything/anybody gets in the way, he loses his temper. He has become so narcissistic, he gets more out of porn sex than he does with a real woman. And he sees no problem with this. He is outwardly attractive--gorgeous body!--and is successful in his seductions. Life is good.
But Don Jon is hit between the eyes--so to speak--when a blond bombshell, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson,) glides into the nightclub and holds her own with him. He is intrigued (hooked) and continues to pursue her even as she delays and delays going to bed with him. When she finally does give in, then catches him at his computer right afterwards, she only stays because he promises never to do it again (oh, sure!). There are many funny lines in the film, and one is Barbara saying, "Movies and porn are different; they give awards to movies."
Their relationship blossoms; they meet each other's families who are pleased with their choices. We see that Don Jon is a chip off the old block when his dad (Tony Danza) is mesmerized by Barbara. As cracks begin to appear in the relationship, Don Jon is not bothered, only a little troubled. One issue surrounds cleaning. He is a neat freak and loves to clean his apartment, but Barbara, who is from a wealthy family, says "Don't talk about vacuuming in front of me." She wants to send her maid over to his apartment; he shouldn't be doing anything so low class.
Enter Esther (Julianne Moore), a classmate in a course Don Jon is taking. Her attitudes toward porn and many other things are very different from any he has heard, and despite himself, he is curious about this older woman. This friendship will have a significant impact on him in a positive way because she has none of the oppositionality he is accustomed to in himself and others in his circle. She has a story that pulls from him feelings he has never before experienced, and he begins to see Barbara in a different light. The viewer should find resolution of the story in the film well done and satisfying.
Levitt is to be congratulated on accomplishing so much in his first written/directed/produced film. It depicts the manifestations of addiction intelligently from social and emotional standpoints and illustrates how personal relationships can be essential in overcoming its power over a person. Levitt is outstanding in his performance, and he and Scarlett Johansson make a fine duo with good chemistry. She also performs one of her finest and sexiest roles. Julianne Moore's character is a perfect contrast, with her natural warmth and understanding. All of these actors are at the top of their game. The inclusion of Don Jon's sister as glued to her cell phone and making only a couple of statements that turn out to be profound is a clever addition and well portrayed by Brie Larson. The Tony Danza character is just whom one would expect would be Don Jon's father. He is well cast for this role.
Not only is this movie highly entertaining, it has a great deal of substance in its portrayal of addiction. Grade: A
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT SCARLETT JOHANSSON JULIANNE MOORE TONY DANZA
It seems there is nothing 30 year old Joseph Gordon Levitt cannot do. Besides becoming one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood, and after his dance performance at the Oscars, Levitt has written and directed his first film titled Don Jon. It was previous titled Don Jon’s Addicted but Levitt changed the title because he didn’t like the negative association the film was getting with porn. However the film an interesting study into how porn has changed young men for the worse in their sexual behaviors. Levitt doesn’t want the focus to be on the porn aspect and he does a good job with keeping it focused on the characters. He has written some interesting female parts, one specifically for Johansson.
Jon (Levitt) loves only a few things: his apartment, his workout routine, family, car and his friends. Of course there are his women, but they change on a weekly basis, even though he asks for forgiveness every Sunday for his premarital intercourse and his masturbation. Even when Jon lands “the most beautiful girl I have ever seen”, he can’t give up his addiction to porn and the feeling of losing himself during masturbation that he can’t find with women. His relationship crumbles because of porn and while at first he results back into his old single Don Jon lifestyle, he meets Esther at a night school class who is the first person he feels like he can open up to about his situation.
“All guys do it, and those who say they don’t are lying,” Jon says in defense. The stats back this statement up but Levitt chooses to explore this modern day issue in dramatic fashion putting himself right in the middle of the story. One must ask the question why this subject matter for his first film and is there something personal behind it? While his directing skills are a bit vanilla, this is a terrific performance from Levitt who grows stronger in his skill with each role.
His female characters are bimbo and mother nurturer, both played very memorably by Johnasson and Moore. While this is a real departure for Johnasson, I would have liked to have seen this subject explored more through the relationship with Moore’s character because the two have very believable yet surprising chemistry. Don Jon seems to have a message here much the way any other film about addiction does. While Levitt mostly uses irony to make his points, it’s still a suspenseful narrative because we haven’t seen this type of vaulnrable male character before and Levitt should be applauded for diving into the subject matter even if the film isn’t a masterpiece.
Final Thought – Levitt’s directorial debut showcases strength and diversity.
By: Dustin Chase