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Don Jon - Movie Review

4 stars

Don Jon, which represents Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial and screenwriting debut, is not a message movie, but it does have a message. The idea behind the film, which has been buzzing around in the actor’s head for years, is an earnest but highly entertaining look at sex, intimacy, love, and how the idealized portrayals of men and women often get in the way of human relationships. Gordon-Levitt makes a fairly convincing case which compares our consumption of mass media - via commercials, the internet, and even family-rated TV shows - to pornography.

Sounds heavy, but it’s really not. It’s actually rather lighthearted and quite funny, in fact. And despite the trailers you’ve seen peddling it as a movie about masturbation and pornography addiction, it’s really not that either. Well, Ok, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character, Jon IS addicted to pornography and DOES get greater satisfaction from masturbation than he does from real sex, but there’s more to it than that. Don Jon is really an insightful cautionary tale about a young man’s unexpected growth and maturity as he learns to forego the objectification of women in favor of true intimacy. So, it’s not a movie about pornography and masturbation, but rather a coming-of-age tale told through the lens of pornography.

As the movie opens, we learn by way of voiceover that Jon achieves sexual arousal by simply hearing the startup chime of his Mac. Besides building his body, cleaning his apartment, and going to church, porn is a staple of his life. He’s a strong, handsome, good old fashioned guy teasingly called “Don Jon” by his bar buddies due to his ability to take home a different woman every weekend. But none of the women he brings home compares to the bliss he experiences when he slips out from under her arm to masturbate to pornography on his computer. That is until he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson).

Rated a 10 by Jon and his buddies as she is first spotted standing at the bar in their favorite joint, Barbara is the kind of girl Jon thinks he wants to bring home to his mother and perhaps eventually settle down with. She too is a good old-fashioned Catholic girl, but rather than a porn addiction, Barbara is distracted by fantasies of her own. Drop-dead gorgeous and by no means a prude, Barbara has her own unattainable fairy-tale ideas of what the perfect relationship should look like, formed mostly by watching Hollywood romantic comedies. It doesn’t take long for Barbara to discover Jon’s dirty browser history and summarily kick him to the curb.

Most of the film deals with Jon and Barbara’s relationship which is never short of highly captivating, as it’s near impossible to not be stricken by Johansson’s smoldering sex appeal. Topped with a slightly loutish Jersey girl attitude, her Barbara is completely absorbed in what she thinks she’s entitled to, and will stop nowhere short of making Jon change so she can get it.

But a leopard can’t change its spots, so enter Esther (Julianne Moore) an older fellow student in Jon’s night school class who catches Jon watching porno videos, this time on his cell phone at the back of class. She’s far more open and less traditional than Barbara and quickly seizes the awkward opportunity to introduce Jon to an entirely new way of thinking about women, love and intimacy. A door is opened that takes Jon on a journey of unexpected growth and maturity.

Moore is good as the free-spirited sexpot harkening back to her career-making role in Boogie Nights, and Tony Danza nearly steals the show as Jon’s foul-mouthed working class father whose obsession with televised sports mirrors his son’s addiction to porn. They’re all surrounded by a gaggle of mostly stereotyped characters that are nonetheless highly endearing in their own unique ways.

Gordon-Levitt deserves high praise for taking on such a hot-button subject, while, at the same time, presenting it in such an entertaining fashion. He’s demonstrated great promise here with an astute understanding of all the things that make for an engaging movie. His pacing is airy and brisk, his characters are never dull, and most importantly of all, he has something important to say and knows how to say it.


[tab title="Film Details"]

Don Jon - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use.
90 mins
: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Writer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
: Comedy | Romance
Everyone loves a happy ending.
Memorable Movie Quote: "There's only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn."
Relativity Media
Official Site:
Release Date: September 27, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.

Synopsis: A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.


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