Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: Don Jon

Whether he intended it or not, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, writer, director and star of Don Jon, may have concocted the perfect date movie, with a little something for everyone: raunchy porn for the guys and a romantic moral at the end for their girlfriends.

Sept 23, 2013

-By Shirley Sealy


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1385618-Don_Jon_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

We all know the type: Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a swaggering, Italian-American single guy who lives in New Jersey, tends bar for a living, hangs with his pals every night, works out every day, drives a hot car, picks up chicks on Saturday night and goes to church on Sunday morning. So what makes him fascinating enough to build a movie around? Well, here’s what: He’s addicted—really addicted—to Internet porn.

In fact, Levitt originally called his film Don Jon’s Addiction—a downer of a title that certainly doesn’t fit this mostly funny, sometimes upsetting satire on modern sexual mores—and how technology has changed contemporary life in more ways than most of us can imagine. One of Jon’s favorite sayings is “Everybody watches porn,” and if that’s true there should be a huge audience for this highly unusual “romantic comedy.”

A good chunk of screen time here is devoted to rapid-fire clips of the kind of computer porn Jon watches, with occasional cuts to his face as he experiences the moment of private physical ecstasy—which, for him, is waaaay more exciting than sex with a real woman. For starters, he can get it off without being obliged to do anything or say anything—and he does it as often as he wants, like up to 17 times a day. He actually keeps count of them, so he can confess his sins to his priest every Sunday, say a penance of ten Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers—and feel free to go home and start the fun stuff all over again.

Oh, Jon denies that he’s addicted, and everyone knows that he has sex with a different girl every weekend—that’s why his friends call him Don Jon. Despite all this, though, deep down Jon still yearns for a real, one-on-one relationship with a woman who will let him “lose” himself in her the way he loses himself when he’s alone with his computer.

An aside here: Any revulsion the viewer might feel toward Jon’s solitary cyber-sex is counteracted by the sheer charm Gordon-Levitt exudes as Don Jon, and by the light touch he brings to his beautifully paced script—which very soon introduces the girl who rates as a “dime”—i.e., the perfect ten he’s been waiting for. And Scarlett Johansson is perfect as Barbara Sugarman, a romantic traditionalist who’s learned everything she knows about love from the movies—like those 1950s Doris Day and Rock Hudson kind of movies. Barbara feeds Jon’s ardor by making him wait a while to bed her, and by then he’s totally hooked—i.e., “in love”— and eager to prove he’s ready for a long-term relationship. He even brings Barbara to meet the family: Dad (a terrific Tony Danza) can’t get over how hot Barbara is; Mom (Glenne Headly) is thrilled that her son has finally found someone, and Jon’s kid sister (Brie Lawson) doesn’t seem to notice or care—until, that is, it’s time to speak her piece.

Barbara’s presence in Jon’s life transforms him, of course, though not enough to make him go cold turkey on porn. She prods him to better himself by going to night school, which is where he meets an empathetic older woman, Esther (Julianne Moore). Suffice to say that when Jon and Barbara hit a rough patch (she discovers his addiction, he discovers she’s a Miss Bossy-pants), it’s Esther he turns to—and Moore infuses this role with all the warmth and natural sex appeal she’s known for.

Back to Gordon-Levitt’s charm: It’s up there on the screen, of course, and in his script. But more importantly, it’s in his direction; he’s clearly smart enough and hip enough to avoid the self-indulgent pitfalls that trip up so many first-time directors. Gordon-Levitt has the touch, no doubt about it, and he also has a good eye for casting, for every one of the leading performers is spot-on—especially the two leading women. While the subject matter here is certainly different—and may prove a bit off-putting to some, particularly older audiences— Don Jon does offer young men a chance to take their girlfriends (if they have them) to a movie they’ll both want to talk about afterwards. On the other hand, some guys may worry they’d have too much ’splaining to do.


Film Review: Don Jon

Whether he intended it or not, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, writer, director and star of Don Jon, may have concocted the perfect date movie, with a little something for everyone: raunchy porn for the guys and a romantic moral at the end for their girlfriends.

Sept 23, 2013

-By Shirley Sealy


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1385618-Don_Jon_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

We all know the type: Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a swaggering, Italian-American single guy who lives in New Jersey, tends bar for a living, hangs with his pals every night, works out every day, drives a hot car, picks up chicks on Saturday night and goes to church on Sunday morning. So what makes him fascinating enough to build a movie around? Well, here’s what: He’s addicted—really addicted—to Internet porn.

In fact, Levitt originally called his film Don Jon’s Addiction—a downer of a title that certainly doesn’t fit this mostly funny, sometimes upsetting satire on modern sexual mores—and how technology has changed contemporary life in more ways than most of us can imagine. One of Jon’s favorite sayings is “Everybody watches porn,” and if that’s true there should be a huge audience for this highly unusual “romantic comedy.”

A good chunk of screen time here is devoted to rapid-fire clips of the kind of computer porn Jon watches, with occasional cuts to his face as he experiences the moment of private physical ecstasy—which, for him, is waaaay more exciting than sex with a real woman. For starters, he can get it off without being obliged to do anything or say anything—and he does it as often as he wants, like up to 17 times a day. He actually keeps count of them, so he can confess his sins to his priest every Sunday, say a penance of ten Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers—and feel free to go home and start the fun stuff all over again.

Oh, Jon denies that he’s addicted, and everyone knows that he has sex with a different girl every weekend—that’s why his friends call him Don Jon. Despite all this, though, deep down Jon still yearns for a real, one-on-one relationship with a woman who will let him “lose” himself in her the way he loses himself when he’s alone with his computer.

An aside here: Any revulsion the viewer might feel toward Jon’s solitary cyber-sex is counteracted by the sheer charm Gordon-Levitt exudes as Don Jon, and by the light touch he brings to his beautifully paced script—which very soon introduces the girl who rates as a “dime”—i.e., the perfect ten he’s been waiting for. And Scarlett Johansson is perfect as Barbara Sugarman, a romantic traditionalist who’s learned everything she knows about love from the movies—like those 1950s Doris Day and Rock Hudson kind of movies. Barbara feeds Jon’s ardor by making him wait a while to bed her, and by then he’s totally hooked—i.e., “in love”— and eager to prove he’s ready for a long-term relationship. He even brings Barbara to meet the family: Dad (a terrific Tony Danza) can’t get over how hot Barbara is; Mom (Glenne Headly) is thrilled that her son has finally found someone, and Jon’s kid sister (Brie Lawson) doesn’t seem to notice or care—until, that is, it’s time to speak her piece.

Barbara’s presence in Jon’s life transforms him, of course, though not enough to make him go cold turkey on porn. She prods him to better himself by going to night school, which is where he meets an empathetic older woman, Esther (Julianne Moore). Suffice to say that when Jon and Barbara hit a rough patch (she discovers his addiction, he discovers she’s a Miss Bossy-pants), it’s Esther he turns to—and Moore infuses this role with all the warmth and natural sex appeal she’s known for.

Back to Gordon-Levitt’s charm: It’s up there on the screen, of course, and in his script. But more importantly, it’s in his direction; he’s clearly smart enough and hip enough to avoid the self-indulgent pitfalls that trip up so many first-time directors. Gordon-Levitt has the touch, no doubt about it, and he also has a good eye for casting, for every one of the leading performers is spot-on—especially the two leading women. While the subject matter here is certainly different—and may prove a bit off-putting to some, particularly older audiences— Don Jon does offer young men a chance to take their girlfriends (if they have them) to a movie they’ll both want to talk about afterwards. On the other hand, some guys may worry they’d have too much ’splaining to do.
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