Sunday January 12, 2014
Movie Review: Don Jon (2013)
Jon, the titular Don (writer-director Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is a simple Jersey guy. He works as a bartender, goes to the gym, spends Saturday nights with the boys and Sunday afternoons with his family, where he and his father (Tony Danza), both wearing wife-beaters, argue about stupid shit with the football game on. He also goes to church every Sunday and confesses his sins. Generally these include sex out of wedlock and masturbating to internet porn. The sex occurs about once a week. The internet porn? About 14-21 times per week.
“Don Jon,” in other words, is an addiction movie and porn is Jon’s addiction. For him, porn sex is better than real sex. He’ll sleep with a beautiful woman, then get up in the middle of the night to jack off to internet porn. Why? Basically it’s a way for him to lose himself in a way he doesn’t, or can’t, with regular sex. “For the next few minutes all the bullshit fades away,” he says. “I just fucking lose myself.”
That’s the ending, too. He meets the girl who makes him confront his problem (Julianne Moore) and afterwards discovers the joys of sex with someone you care about. Then he says this in voiceover:
And while we're doing it, all the bullshit does fade away, and it's just me and her, right there, and yeah I do lose myself in her. And I can tell she's losing herself in me. And we're just fuckin’... lost together.
It’s an interesting concept. Not porn addiction, God no, but losing yourself. We all do that. Apparently consciousness is such a burden that we all look for ways to temporarily relieve ourselves of it: through booze or drugs or TV or movies or books or writing. Or watching internet porn.
But Don’s not that interesting. Sorry. His addiction isn’t that interesting, the people he hangs with aren’t that interesting, his version of Jersey isn’t that interesting. It’s like a cardboard version of Jersey concocted by a guy who was raised in southern California—as Gordon-Levitt was, in the entertainment industry—and watched TV and movies about Jersey, which was where “real life” was. This is Gordon-Levitt’s attempt at real life.
I didn’t buy it. I didn’t buy Gordon-Levitt as just a guy from the neighborhood, either.
Oddly, maybe because she’s such a good actress, I did buy Scarlett Johansson as just a girl from the neighborhood. Jon meets her at a club, she won’t sleep with him right away (like the others), so he finds out who she is and sets up a date. He’s pursuing her but she’s training him. She wants him to get a better job, settle down, start a family. He’s a neatnik—to offset the porn addiction—and at a store he talks swiffers and vacuuming and gets her upset. “Don’t talk about vacuuming in front of me!” she says. “Because it’s not sexy, that’s why!”
Psst, Don. I know a few women who find a man cleaning house sexy. About 100 million or so. I can hook you up.
I kept disagreeing with the screen in this manner. Women always like the missionary position? Really? Any guy who says he doesn’t watch porn is a liar? Really? Then I guess I’m a liar. That’s not my vice. The porn that I’ve seen is just too stupid and boring and unsexy to keep watching.
Barbara (Johansson) has her own semi-addiction—to romantic Hollywood movies, to fairytale romance—and “Don Jon” offers up its own fake version: “Special Someone,” starring Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway. It should’ve been cleverer. Even the title. Give me “Rochelle, Rochelle” or “Prognosis: Negative” any day.
All in all, it’s not a bad first effort by Gordon-Levitt. It’s zippy, for one. But it wants to be real and doesn’t feel real. It’s a character study of a cardboard character.