1 January 2014 | bill_the_butcher7
'Don Jon' Puts Jersey Spin on Romantic Comedies
New Jersey guy Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) only cares about a few things in his life: his family, friends, church, and porn. After many one-night-stands, he finally decides to settle down with a "dime" named Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). But not even this relationship can compare to the happiness Jon has when alone with his pornography. When he realizes his porn may be too influential on him, he begins to change his lifestyle and beliefs with help from an older woman (Julianne Moore).
Stories of sex addiction aren't new, having been dealt with most recently in 2011's Shame, but Don Jon feels different. Jon loves porn; he says it many times in voice-over and is consistently shown getting up in the middle of the night to go watch porn after just having sex in real life. He doesn't see it as an addiction, saying "It's porn. It's not heroin," as his excuse. To show the media influence on sex, the film opens by crosscutting many sexualized commercials, film scenes, and television clips over the credits, while actual pornography clips are spliced throughout. But unlike Shame, which treats this topic in an intense, dramatic way, Jon keeps it light, funny, and tries to show how easy it is for someone to unknowingly fall into this addiction in today's sex- obsessed culture.
The film also tackles an exploration of today's relationships. Barbara's own "porn" is romantic Hollywood films that Jon hates. These films have influenced Barbara's ideas on dating (she yells at him to stop cleaning his apartment because it's not sexy) and enforced her beliefs that typical gender roles are the only means to a happy relationship. This film speaks truths about ideas young people may have about dating in today's culture, and while spinning these topics in a mostly comedic light, it is still interesting to consider how much media pertains to our understanding of the world.
Don Jon succeeds in most areas, and one large part is due to its cast. Tony Danza is really funny as Jon's father and Scarlett Johansson (and her hilarious Jersey accent) steals every scene she in. The film offers up a good amount of laughs, and the purposeful repetitive narrative works in showing Jon's changing lifestyle. Most of the film is so upbeat and fast that the last twenty minutes may feel like its dragging, but it can be considered necessary due to Jon's slowed-down new lifestyle.
The fact that this is the first film by writer-director Gordon-Levitt is extremely impressive. Don Jon flies at a mostly fast pace, has a fun cast, and gives a great commentary on sex, relationships, and addiction.