Don Jon (2013)
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Plot: A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance
Rating: R21 (cut!) for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“There's only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.”
It is only fitting that actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who found stardom in indie flicks such as (500) Days of Summer (2009) and 50/50 (2011), decided to go indie for his directorial feature debut. Written, directed and also starring Gordon-Levitt in the lead role, Don Jon is an okay first film – it is not below expectations, neither is it particularly excellent.
It is a smooth film with style and energy, but it fails to up its game from a dramatic standpoint. It gives us a glimpse of the potential it could reach, but it never comes close to rising above the crowd. Don Jon is about porn addiction. It is given a light dramatic treatment with touches of comedy that make the film a less awkward viewing affair.
Gordon-Levitt plays Jon, a hunky guy who hangs around at clubs with his mates... drinking and rating sexy women. Occasionally, he sleeps with some of them, only to continually realize that pornography gives him more sexual satisfaction then actual sex. Until he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who catches him watching porn after a period of serious dating.
Barbara is a character that could have been better written. Presently, she is rather shallow – while Johansson adequately fulfills the requisite eye candy, her character does seem dispensable. This is the case with Julianne Moore as well, who plays an older woman longing for companionship.
A finely-written character stands on his or her own; he or she is unique and cannot be easily re-written, because he or she is already complete. The supporting female roles here are rather perfunctory – they are not made to matter as much when it ought to have been so.
Through a combination of clever editing and a narrative structure that hinges on a creative sense of repetitive familiarity (Jon masturbates to porn and then confesses to the priest in church who then absolves his sins – this is repeated countless times), Don Jon at least doesn't feel dull.
Ultimately, the film's intention is not to be a serious, hard-hitting work of art in the vein of Requiem for a Dream (2000) or Shame (2011), both exploring drug and sex addiction respectively, but to portray a socially debilitating condition in relation to its effect on human (romantic) relationships through a balance of self-depreciating humour and poignant drama, of which Don Jon is lacking.
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