Do Not See Don Jon (But if You Do, You May Never Look at Porn Again)
- Friday, September 27, 2013
DVD Release Date: December 31, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: September 27, 2013
Rating: R (for graphic sexual content and dialogue, nudity, language, and some drug use)
Run Time: 90 minutes
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headley, Brie Larson, Jeremy Luke, Rob Brown
Editor's Note: This review contains frank discussion of mature subject matter. Parents please be advised. Additionally, multiple spoilers are mentioned.
Let's get this out of the way up front: this is not going to be our usual movie review. Quite simply, it can't be.
Nor will I recommend the experience, the sights and sounds of this hard-R examination of today's porn-addicted 20-something males, to the Crosswalk audience. From the opening montage that lays bare our society's objectification of women, through the non-stop nasty language spoken by the main character's friends and New York Italian family, to the unbelievable amount of times Jon claims to masturbate in a given week, to the role marijuana and 'proper' fornication play in the outcome, this movie offends. No two ways about it.
But we are going to take the opportunity to talk about the subject matter addressed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut, because - and this is not an endorsement of Don Jon - there are those in our society and, statistics soberingly say, our Church, who need to take a long, hard look in the mirror at the issues within. And when I use the metaphor of a mirror, it is no mistake, because the best thing Don Jon does is reveal how narcissism - extreme self-love and a disability to truly love others - is at the root of pornographic addiction.
Let's begin by considering what's on the screen. I know several friends and co-workers who admit to some degree of confusion over this film, partially because the trailers are cut in such ways that some see a romantic comedy (ala previous "Don Juan" films), some see a laugh-along raunch-fest, and some people seem to anticipate a message movie. The truth is a mixture of all of the above, while also yanking the rug out from each genre a bit (more on that later).
Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt, The Dark Knight Rises) is a bartender who cares deeply for several things: his body, his apartment, his muscle car, his family, his Church (he's Catholic, and attends mass and confession faithfully), his friends, his one-night stands, his porn... and the dead-end life he's trapped in but incapable of knowing it. He's probably angry, judging by the many scenes in which we see the way he drives, but he wouldn't describe himself that way. He's got a killer smile, a tractor-beam stare, a streak of never going home without the company of a woman who grades out as at least an '8,' and the envy of his two friends. Direction? Future? Who needs those. Jon has no reason to even stop to consider such things.
Until, that is, he locks eyes with the first legitimate '10' of his life, Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson, The Avengers). And it is at this point I must digress: Loving the work of Ms. Johansson as I do, and conditioned to believe the aforementioned trailers were leading me down the rom-com road before I ever saw the film, I was planning to write part of this review about the positive influences good women have on childish men. I know, I was one of them (a childish man, not a good woman). From the way the old Bryan Duncan song "Mr. Bailey's Daughter" resonated with me ("she's got me singin' in the choir / volunteering my time for free") to the way Jack Nicholson made Helen Hunt swoon with the words, "You make me want to be a better man" in As Good as it Gets, this motif has been prevalent and expected. And sure enough, Jon has to work to score with Barbara. She's different from all the rest. As we meet her, the thought, "Good message here: this is what can happen when you have a girl who knows how worthwhile she is" goes through my head. How misdirected I was, and how much I enjoyed that fact.
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