Thursday, September 19, 2013

Don Jon: A Ladies' Man Learns What Love Is

You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.--Sleepless in Seattle

In the case of a Jersey guy named Don Jon, he doesn't want sex. He wants to satisfy himself through porn. In many ways, he argues that it's better than real sex.

Well, he has to learn that isn't true. That's the story of Don Jon, a romantic drama which is also Joseph Gordon-Levitt's first movie as star, writer and director. He has a lot to say about sex and love, and how media define our expectations. I was lucky to see this movie a week early thanks to a sneak preview at the Century Downtown 7 in Sacramento

Look at how he compares being satisfied by porn sites to actual sex. He goes for women who could be from those porn sites, and claims actual sex doesn't match those porn videos because they include better sexual positions and the "happy ending". With sex through porn, it's all about him and not the other partner. Still, as long as he confesses to his priest, and says the Hail Marys, it's all good.

Even the woman he does fall for fits his porn dreams. Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, is beautiful, but reluctant to hook up with first. Her expectations about love are based on romantic comedies, such as the one she and Jon see on a date (the couple in that movie, by the way, look very familiar). It's also no accident that her bedroom where she and Jon make out one afternoon has a poster from Titanic, which defined romance for a lot of people in 2000.

Things go bad due to his porn addiction, and some little signs that suggest Barbara isn't so perfect. He soon meets Esther (Julianne Moore) at his evening college class, and we wonder if there could be a connection there, too.

Jon has some odd ways to balance his love for porn with his family and his religious beliefs. Let's just say he has a new way to pay penance after his confession. The sex scenes are just short of R-rated level, but the porn shots are hard-R. Gordon-Levitt made this choice to make a point.

Gordon-Levitt is just great at Don Jon. He's someone you'd want to hang around with, despite his problems. Johansson is also good as Barbara, who might have been good for Jon if knew that a real relationship that isn't the same as "falling in love in a movie". That becomes as much of a problem as his porn addiction.

Moore is really surprising as Esther. He calls Jon out on his attitude towards porn, but is not disgusted by them. That makes him reconsider his attitude towards sex. I also liked Tony Danza as Jon's dad as he pays more attention to a football game than his family, even at dinner. As Jon's sister Monica, Brie Larson just stares into her smartphone...but not all the time.
The ending might puzzle some people, but if you listen to what he says at the end, it does make sense for him.

Last year, it looks like Gordon-Levitt was everywhere in the movies, whether it's Gotham City or beside Abe Lincoln. Now, he's tackled new roles as director and writer. Don Jon is a very good first try, and let's hope he'll be doing this again.


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