Rarely will you see a film like Don Jon (opening today), a film that is not afraid to tackle subjects that are strictly taboo to most people. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars, writes and directs his first feature about a guy, Jon, a ladies' man with some deep, dark and disturbing secrets. You see, he is secretly addicted to online pornography.
Topics like porn addiction and masturbation are not all too often discussed, let alone analyzed like they are here. But in the...um...hands, of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he uncovers some real truths about male and female fantasy, and the disappointments and differences that exist.
"Don" Jon (think The Godfather's "Don" Corleone) has quite the reputation. His life is all about routine, from keeping his body in shape, to bedding a parade of women each night after clubbing with his buddies. He is in search of a "dime," or, a perfect "10" girl each night. But real women don't quite satisfy him like the ones he can find online. Jon is also a religious, church-going Italian and each week he goes to confession where he meticulously can tell the priest the exact amount of women he's bedded, as well as the exact amount of times he has pleasured himself that week, as he regularly asks for God's forgiveness.
He meets the bombshell - and definite dime - Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) at a club one night, but she isn't the type to sleep around on the first date. Intrigued, Jon applies his "long game," and in the process falls for Barbara. He also meets an older woman (Julianne Moore) while taking a class - a class that Barbara insisted he sign up for - and this woman opens his eyes in some unexpected ways.
Of course, pornography is not something that is shared with others. One question women might have while watching Don Jon is, if he could sleep with any woman that he wants, why does he need the pornography? Many men will know the answer. It's all about fantasy. You see, online he can find any woman he wants, doing anything he wants them to. These are not realities when it comes to flesh and blood women.
But smartly, the film compares male fantasy to the same unrealistic fantasies that women have. In the film, the parallel is drawn between male sexual expectations from watching porn to female romantic expectation when watching "chick flick" romances on the big screen. Very infrequently can real men live up to hearthrobs created in the movies, and some women spend their relationships trying to shape their man into their vision of Mr. Right. The movie asks, is it any different that a man wishes his girl to be Mrs. Right? And by Mrs. Right, of course, that would include being willing and able to fulfill every sexual fantasy that a man has.
Of course, unrealistic expectations on either side can lead to big problems in a relationship. But is one "better" than the other?
Gordon-Levitt's script is daring and his directing style is full of confidence. The end result is a very funny film that will probably leave most feeling uncomfortable. Women - I'm guessing - will probably be jarred to hear about what most men do while their away and how they view sex. Men - most men, I presume - will feel very disconcerted with the veil being lifted off of a very private matter. So depending on your own sense of security, Don Jon may...ahem...rub you the wrong way.
The later third of the film sadly becomes somewhat of a disappointment, when Gordon-Levitt begins to hammer home some of the film's themes while over-stating much of what is already obvious. I was also left feeling confused as to what exactly was learned from Julianne Moore's character that he wouldn't have already known just by using common sense. Here is a film that states that women find unreal expectations from watching movies, yet Don Jon itself is a movie that lands on a highly unrealistic happy ending of sorts.
There is some great supporting work here though, specifically from Johansson and Moore, but also from Jon's dysfunctional family, with foul-mouthed dad, Tony Danza stealing each scene he's in. Glenne Headly as Jon's hopeful mother and his silent into-her-cell-phone sister, Monica (Brie Larson), also give very funny performances.
Don Jon is maybe the most daring and confident film you will ever see, but it's subject matter may make some people squirm. It really says more when it isn't literally describing it's themes to the audience. Don Jon is quite spectacularly fascinating - and funny - for a long while before falling limp near the end. The film falls victim to the same thing that its main character strives to avoid: It sort of gets lost in itself.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson
Written & Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (feature-film debuts in both areas)
Opens locally on Friday, Sept 27, 2013 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time