That little Joseph Gordon-Levitt can really do no wrong: like this generation’s Ron Howard, he rose from child star to now accomplished director. I gotta say, he didn’t do too bad for his first time.
Don Jon is a story of Jon, a porn addict, but unlike Steve McQueen’s stellar melodrama Shame, the we’re dealing with the effects on personal relationships rather than a sad (but glorious) spiral into self-loathing – however, that discussion will have to come another day. Jon (JGL) is your typical New Jersey man’s man: loves his body, his pad, his boys, his girls, his family, his church, and his porn. Did I get that right?
Given that we are dealing with his life from his perspective, we are given enough male gaze action to make your eyes roll out of your sockets. Furthermore, considering he only compares his conquests with what he finds online, his sex-life is ultimately unfulfilled, because let’s face it, nothing’s as good as porn. He decides he wants to change his routine by finally trying an actual relationship once he meets Barbara Sugarman (Miss Scarlett) – a proverbial princess who’s learned everything she knows about relationships through romantic comedies. See what he did there? I’m not sure if this comparison is brutally honest or obnoxious, but for the time being it works.
Wouldn’t you know, both characters’ pettiness comes to fruition, and their relationship crumbles when Barbara finds that Jon was looking at porn yet again (but what was she doing in his history?), and Jon is caught in denial until he makes a quirky friend at his night class. With Esther’s help (played by the lovely Julianne Moore), Jon discovers what it really means to be in a relationship. Oh, and that porn isn’t real.
Don Jon is undoubtedly daring: it exploits and criticizes the flaws of media and the American alpha male. Right from the beginning we are given objectifying images of how men ought to approach women, while women, generally speaking, seek solace in illusionary romance – really, this is like the Dresden Dolls’ “Shores of California” meets Katy Perry’s “California Girls” (yeah, like I’d link to that tripe).
My only real issue with this piece is I feel that Esther’s character was like a little deus ex machina: she pops in just at the right time with just the right know-how to set Jon straight. I’m not really all that convinced that he would have went for her, no matter how desperate. At the same time, I feel if she didn’t pop in, the resulting fling wouldn’t have been as nearly as heartfelt near the end. While I applaud the effort, a more solid character introduction/interaction would have been much appreciated – though it was so great to finally see an adult female in this world of selfish brats.
Whew! Okay, Done
Don Jon is the kind of romantic comedy that I think we really need right now. With the constant flux of media, there is less of a desire for actual communication – physical beings have become more or less a cure for loneliness. Fortunately, the lessons of the film are not delivered in an overly assertive manner. Now if we could work on some of that good ol’ character development I mentioned in the spoiler zone, this thing would be perfect. Good job, JGL.
Final Grade: A-