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Don Jon was very well-received in its regional premiere at the
Paramount Theatre during Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film was
written, directed and starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He did a really
fine job for his writing and directorial debut, but he may have been
trying to do too much. The acting by Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson,
Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, and Brie Larson is quite
good. I think it is Gordon-Levitt's script that leaves something to be
desired. His character Jon is a very successful ladies' man who is also
heavily addicted to masturbating to internet porn numerous times
daily. Many people will find the film to be quite funny and enjoyable.
However, the graphic use of porn will not be to everybody's taste and
may be off-putting to viewers particularly female viewers. I'm also
wondering whether the extensive use of porn will lead to the MPAA
giving it the kiss-of-death NC-17 rather than an R rating.
JGL's script is well-intentioned and he is trying to make the point that many people become so self-absorbed that they lose the ability to interact with others on a human level. Jon is deadened to real romance by his reliance on porn. His girlfriend has an overly romanticized view of relationships based on watching too many romantic movies. They are both so self-absorbed and selfish that they can't really build a real relationship. Still, it was often difficult to figure out what JGL's point was and in many ways became clearer listening to him during the Q&A after the film. JGL is attempting to raise profound issues about human relationships in the modern era, but he hasn't quite figured out how to do that as a writer and director. I expect that he is going to become as fine a director and writer as he already is an actor. He has a fine future ahead of him.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I give this movie a 10 because it has a message. It has a true purpose
to it, which effects nearly every man on the planet.
Ladies, you can listen to this, but be reasonable. Guys, we all masturbate. Some of us do it more than others, most of us look at porn. Some of us only masturbate to porn and some of us have real hard fetishes.
This movie points to the problem, the process of porn turning our heads, making us believe in perfection and making us ultimately selfish as lovers.
You watch porn, you don't have to please a woman, you don't have to worry about anyone but yourself. It is all perfect. In the real world, in relationships, the other person matters just as much as you, but sometimes, even the real thing is not as good as the fantasy and the ease of it.
Don Jon is about that confusion of liking and appreciating porn more than real women, of becoming addicted to the idea of 'perfection' and the ultimate realization of the effect it has on all us men, making us irritated little boys, incapable of truly connecting with another person.
The message is not that porn is bad, only the way we think and use it is misleading to reality.
But, this is not the type of movie to watch with the family, the girl; it's funny, but not a comedy in a spoof and clown type of way. Watch this movie alone, think about yourself and how porn effects you. It will benefit you greatly.
I saw this at a pre-screening for SXSW and I was really impressed.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt really holds his own as a writer/director, and it
was nice to see him in a role I hadn't really considered him "right"
for. Scarlett Johansen and Julianne Moore are both wonderful as well.
Basically, you should see this if you get the chance. It's funny,
charming, different, and tells a great story that ends up going in a
direction I hadn't anticipated.
This movie basically tells the story of a young guido (Gordon-Levitt) who has a porn addiction and ends up in a relationship with Scarlett Johansen's character. One thing leads to another, blah blah blah.... you'll see when you see it. I don't want to give too much away.
Anyway, yeah! Really good movie, great directorial debut, and a well told story. I'd recommend this film.
"Don Jon" (formerly known as "Don Jon's Addiction") is the feature
directorial debut of the talented and ridiculously charismatic Joseph
Gordon-Levitt. He also wrote the script and plays the title character,
a young man from New Jersey who's developed: a) an unhealthy addiction
to porn; and b) such unrealistic expectations about sex and love (and
sex) that not even a "10" like Barbara (a hilarious Scarlett Johansson,
in what is easily her best work since "Vicky Cristina Barcelona") can
satisfy him in real life.
"Don Jon" reminded me of a great, half-forgotten French film: Bertrand Blier's "Too Beautiful for You" (1989). In that film, a wealthy car dealer (Gerard Depardieu) who has everything including a beautiful wife (Carole Bouquet) falls for his plain, slightly overweight secretary (Josiane Balasko). "Don Jon" is also like Blier's film in the sense that Jon finds his "10," yet he's still unsatisfied. Both films are very different in tone, aesthetics, and geography, but they delicately touch in the realm of our own emotional misconceptions and immaturity. We live in a world where our ever-growing concern about self-image, and the belief that we must abide by unattainable beauty standards in order to find a decent match, have grown so out-of-hand that all we ever do is find obstacles to getting to know anyone who doesn't meet our own ridiculous requirements. We are always waiting for the illusory perfection. Levitt sharply illustrates this issue by way of porn addiction; it might be crude for some, but he manages not to fall into excessive vulgarity or toilet humor.
Also featuring the always wonderful Julianne Moore in an important role, plus Glenne Headly (I've missed her on the big screen), Tony Danza, and Brie Larson as Jon's parents and sister, respectively; "Don Jon" is worth the visit. Here's hoping for more JGL directorial efforts!
Defining what kind of film this is had to be the hardest part of
getting DON JON made, but ultimately it was worth it! It isn't really a
"guy" film even though *technically* it tries to look at sex from a
guy's perspective. It may actually best be called a "chick" flick, but
one they would see alone rather than with a date. At the screening I
saw, ALL the raucous laughter was coming from very obviously female
voices - falling out of their chairs laughing over what they viewed as
stereotypical male behavior - and even as the supposed "10" played by
Scarlett Johansson reveals herself to be the kind of demanding (insert
the word for a female canine here) who a very stupid - make that
excessively immature - straight boy (like the one played with supreme
élan by author/director Gordon-Levitt) would make a fool of himself
The film heavily satirizes stereotypical straight New Jersey Catholics - the easily offended of which should probably stay away along with anyone who expects a slick date night romantic comedy that doesn't require them to THINK - but it IS a beautifully structured and polished first directorial effort and very funny in its way. Man or woman though, it is not your usual DATE film to see with the opposite sex. The litmus scene for the film was probably when Johansson (Barbara) confronts Gordon-Levitt (Jon) over watching porn! Foolishly trying to evoke simple reason, he (accurately) tells her that "EVERY guy watches porn - and that anyone who says he doesn't is lying." The theatre got absolutely quiet there for a moment in any section where dates were sitting, as each side wondered what the other was thinking. What YOU may think in that scene will determine a lot about how you view and react to the film. You may enjoy it regardless of what you think of that (for the film) core issue, but you sure won't want to see it with anyone who you can't comfortably talk about it with.
The "home" scenes with Jon's family and Barbara's are probably excess baggage, but they give the central characters broad context (the broadest performance in a very stylized film is probably Tony Danza's performance as Jon's father) - and set up the one totally human moment in the film when Jon's silent sister defines what a good sibling should be when she finally has a line! Ultimately, there is one unexpected, rational woman (Julianne Moore giving a remarkable imitation of Susan Sarandon!) who Jon meets in the night class Barbara insists he take who not only "gets" him but broadens his horizons for the kind of growth any central character in a good film must have.
Don't expect a pat happy ending or a cheap thought-free throw away comedy (and DON'T make it first date material with someone you don't know yet!), and the open minded will have a wonderful time. My take-away image is really of a few years ago at the first Broadway preview of a Tony winning musical called AVENUE Q. Just before it started, a student of mine at the university where I teach came over to introduce his mother who was seeing the show too, sitting in front of each other all the way over at the side. Midway through the show there was a very funny, very outrageous musical number called "You Can Be As Loud As You Want" (When You're making Love). I glanced over to see how my student and his mother were taking it and, as you can imagine, my student, sitting in front of his mother, was sinking onto the floor with embarrassment. What he *couldn't see* was his mother rocking with laughter both at the insouciance of the number and her son's embarrassment! I think my mother (who, as far as I know, probably doesn't approve of pornography) or my minister would be howling with laughter at DON JON too - but they probably wouldn't want anyone they knew to see them doing so.
Recommended - but with noted reservations.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well now, this is something new.
This is the first film, I think, that has been made in Hollywood that overtly makes its theme the differences in sexual make-up between men and women, and how those differences are alternately amplified, obscured, or pandered to in the modern age. With men, whose innate sexuality is hardwired to be markedly more visual in orientation, this has led to the enormous popularity of internet pornography, whereas with women - whose sexuality tends to be more relationship orientated because of the support and protection needed for the offspring they will bear that may result from it - it has led to the unattainable fairy tale endings of romance novels and chick-flicks, boy-band ballads, wedding magazines.
This too is the first film I've seen which accurately depicts 21st century man's relationship with pornography as a simple fact of life, without judgement. Usually in a Hollywood film the guy watching porn is seen as some kind of aberration, a creep. Whereas here, as Don Jon himself says, 'every guy watches porn, and if he says he doesn't he's a liar'.
On the other side of that coin, the girl of his dreams, Barbara, turns out to be a monstrous black hole of avaricious female hypergamy, to whom sex is simply something to be used to manipulate other human beings into providing things for her. "You'll be so sexy with a REAL job" she tells Jon, rubbing her ass up against him until he comes in his pants but refusing to sleep with him until he takes a night class in business.
There are no actually 'likeable' characters, as such, in this film - everyone's flawed and weak in all their different ways: the father, the mother, the sullen, silent sister permanently glued to her iphone. No-one here is 'a great catch'. Jon may be addicted to watching sex, but Barbara is addicted to syrupy fantasies of male sacrifice, waiting for her prince to come. "He gave up EVERYTHING for her," she gushes as they come out of her latest chick flick 'Special Someone'. "It was MEANT to be."
In recent years, the anti-scientific forces of feminism and political correctness have made it so that even addressing the natural differences between the sexes can lead you to be accused of some sort of hate crime, so the honesty of this film is really is quite a brave stance to have taken in the present climate. And the ultimate message of the film, that Jon would rather take a grieving older woman (broken down and over the hill by his earlier standards) who is actually capable of love, acceptance and care, over the nightmarish '10' who can think only of herself, is a touching glimpse of a better, kinder, saner way of life, which provides the human heart of the story.
On the minus side, there is a lack of polish to the script, the direction and the performances too, all of which veer a little too far towards caricature, with not enough shading and depth. We also have to endure the most horrendously grating 'Noo Joisey' accents imaginable for an hour and a half, which is quite a lot to ask. But for such a fresh, unique and rewarding parable about our times, these are petty details easily overlooked.
(Somewhat Spoiler-y) I've dated an older woman, and in a lot of ways
she tried to tell me the same things Esther tells Jon. In fact I
remember a few distinctly similar interactions, so on that level the
movie really spoke to me.
I imagine one could say the movie relies on some clichés, just enough to satisfy the romance/comedy genre, but it uses them in very unique ways to tell a story that at least seems a little more real. Sort of like 500 Days (of Summer) on steroids. No pun intended. In fact it may be even safe to say that Don Jon is the next chapter in the 500 Days saga, albeit with a different character. Perhaps one made cynical by the events of JGL last romance comedy outing.
Don Jon has graduated beyond puppy love, certainly, and onto full blown adult fun. But the movie is very biting, and sort of tears apart his self-serving agenda.
A lot of people seem to be caught up in the "porn" aspect of the movie, but honestly the "porn" is a metaphor, no more important to the gym-tan-laundry-sexualized commercials.
There are only two real female characters in the film: Esther, and Jon's quiet-except-for-one-powerful-line sister. The sister in fact almost makes the movie, as they use her small character to incredible effect.
The movie does a nice job of tricking the audience into rooting for Jon and Barbara, of course it's all a ploy. They even set up Esther as a sort of antagonist. She is enticing yet feels all wrong for Jon. Older, sort of run down, maybe a bit of a predator of weak men, the movie isn't very clear about her at the start. She runs completely counter to the stereotypes of women as set up by the film. She is far from perfect, but Moore makes her believably beautiful. I truly doubt many other actresses could've sold this role in the way she did. While her age played right into the character she probably was right for the character for mostly other reasons.
I don't think the movie is overall that outstanding. Many of the jokes fall flat, and some of it is tedious. In fact the vast majority of it could be considered filler, but the end is so incredible it does a great job of tying all these scenes together in a way that makes perfect sense and delivers a powerful message. Without completely ruining it the end embraces the typical cliché, but flips it on it's head. What results is a very mature version of what audiences have come to expect from these types of movies. The same, but also very different.
I would expect JGL will have continued success as a Director and actor.
The guy truly gets it.
As if Joseph Gordon-Levitt couldn't get any better. The former child
star has turned into quite the up-and-coming young actor as he's worked
to re-brand himself as something more than that kid from 3rd Rock From
the Sun. Over the years, he's starred in such films as Brick, The Dark
Knight Rises and Looper, and has proved to be the type of actor whom
everyone loves - and who actually deserves that love. However, his most
impressive performance to date might just be the one he gave behind the
camera with Don Jon.
The film marks Levitt's first time writing and directing a feature- length film, and it makes one hell of an impression, especially because he tackles the lead role as well. Don Jon is one of those movies that has plenty of laughs and a few heartfelt moments, and it's certainly entertaining. But it also touches on a few interesting social issues. I think I'll just go ahead and say it, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives away a few trade secrets, much to the horror of men everywhere: Don Jon touches on that dreadfully embarrassing fact that every guy is terrified will come out. What secret is that? Well, it's probably best to put it in the words of the protagonist, Jon, himself: "Every guy looks at porn, every day."
Well, that last part might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Don Jon does bring up the point that pornography has become so readily available through the internet and even television that it's just simply within arm's reach at every single second of every single day, and every guy now and then reaches out to take a handful. However, society still treats it as something shameful and embarrassing, rather than a fact of life.
Don Jon doesn't treat the use of pornography as something that should destroy relationships or cause significant others to fly off the handle in fits of jealousy. In fact, the movie seems to indicate, it's a habit that's probably pretty healthy. That isn't to say that Jon has a healthy habit, as he's reduced to having to look at pornography constantly throughout the day, even after sex, but you know, that's an extreme example.
Then again, maybe it isn't. Maybe the film offers a bit of a warning about how a little pornography is perfectly normal, but a lot can create a monster. Too much porn can make it so that it's nearly impossible to connect with someone else on a meaningful level. After all, watching too much sex can create expectations that are as unrealistic as the ones the romantic comedies create.
What really impressed me about Don Jon, though, are the performances that Levitt pulls out of his co-stars. I've honestly never seen Scarlett Johansson give a better performance than she did as Jon's trashy New Jersey girlfriend, Barbra. She's absolutely despicable as she slowly begin to reveal her true intentions and tries to paint Jon as the bad guy when she discovers his addiction. On top of that, Tony Danza gives a side-splitting performance as Jon's hot-headed father who gets into dick-measuring contest with his son every Sunday night (figurative, people, come on).
However, the most impressive of them all is Levitt himself, who has repeatedly proved that he is one hell of an actor and one who has earned my trust as a moviegoer. The role is something so far from what I would have ever pictured him portraying, but he pulls it off beautifully as he plays the scumbag good-guy stereotype.
Now for the hard part. I really enjoyed Don Jon. It strikes as a solid balance between art and entertainment, it's filled with lots of laughs and it touches on a sensitive topic in a way that doesn't seem preachy. The ending is a little weak, but everything up until that is golden. However, I'm not sure if it's what one would call a date movie, since it will probably lead to inquisitive stares during a quiet car ride home afterward. And honestly, that's really too bad. For the people that are willing to embrace the fact that everyone looks at porn, this movie is well worth the price of admission. However, I'm not sure if most of its value comes from the first viewing. It's no Shame, but there's really no shame in that.
Don Jon, was a film that I had to be a little patient with. What first started as a vulgar, raucous and teen oriented film having little more than jokes involving perverseness and sexual humour and was something that I figured I had wasted my money on, turned out to completely surprise me and ended up as one of my favourite films of this year. Yes, the film does have a lot of sexual humour and content in it, but it has some reason to, seeing as the film is dealing with addiction to pornography. And what may have seemed immature and like teenage humour for the first little bit of the film, soon went away and it became one of the most insightful and intelligent films of the year. I have heard the comparisons to this film from 2011's Steve McQueen directed film, Shame which is also about sexual addiction. Unfortunately, I have not seen Shame yet. I missed it at theatres and every time I go to the library to rent it, it is out, so for obvious reasons I can not compare the two of them. Don Jon, did have a lot to say both about young men and women, sex and relationships. It's the kind of film you would almost want younger teens to see in order to learn something and perhaps plan their own lives and future relationships a little more differently. Here the internet pornography sites serve as a form of escape for this main character and while he likes being around women, he can not connect with them in the same way as he feels he can with things he sees on the computer. This further complicates things for himself because what we see on the internet and in magazines often times are things that are made to look perfect, beautiful and however you want to put it, but other than just looking at it, there is no real connection, or relationship to it. It is hollow and empty and void of any emotional connection or feelings to another person. Perhaps that is why this character can not relate to real women. Everything up to now has been completely empty and void of any feeling, or connection and in his mind if he doesn't have to attach himself in any way to a real woman, he wonders what the point of that is. Throughout the course of the film, our lead character, Jon, meets two very different women, who will both change his outlook and outcome of his way of handling relationships and finding truer meaning to both himself and others as well. The film while crude and a little graphic at times, is far more into psychological and character study than one may think and it is one of the most insightful and accurate looks at young, or basically any type of relationships that I have seen in a long time. Jon, is with one woman who seems to be his dream woman, but right from the start we do not really like her, or at least I didn't. She herself had an unrealistic view of relationships that was more about status symbols and image than about real love for one another as well. The other woman we meet knows more about relationships and more about Jon himself than he may want to admit, or care for her to know, but there is a whole different type of connection and intimacy level there. The film shows that so often young men treat women as sexual objects and fantasies and actually how we can be so demeaning and almost sexist towards them. At the same time, this selfish attitude hurts other people and ourselves because we can not truly ever find anything that is real if we continue on this way because everything has to be perfect, or just like it is on movies, magazines, or the internet and it gives us a false distortion of reality, relationships and other people. The film is the first film written and directed by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt whose acting has impressed me over the years, especially in films like Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin. Now he shows that he can not only act, but write and direct as well. The film has moments of laugh out loud humour, but it also has a tender and emotional side to it as well. It examines these people and what is really behind them and the hurts, or the things they have been through and it is honest both about men, women and relationships in general. As the film ended, I could totally understand the way the film ended and why Levitt, decided to do it in that way. It felt realistic for his character, but at the same time also connected to beauty and happiness. I enjoyed the screenplay and direction immensely as well as the performances were all quite good as well. I liked the quick jump cut editing and the film's use of music in certain scenes, I felt worked really well also. I know some viewers will be turned off by the material and subject matter, but it really is a film worth seeing if you are in a relationship, or even if you are not and this is a film that definitely has something to say. I look forward to future writing and directing projects for Levitt, and as it stands Don Jon, is one of 2013's best and maybe most misunderstood films as well.
Don Jon (2013)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, director and stars as Jon, a twenty-something man who loves women but what he loves even more is watching porn. He meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) who demands that he gives it up for her. DON JON isn't the greatest film ever made but I will say that I don't recall ever watching a movie that was so confident. Confidence is something most people lack and even most brass movies lack it but DON JON certainly isn't afraid to say what it wants to and stick by it. Having a romantic comedy that says watching porn is better than being with women and then tells you why that's the case is something incredibly rare. What's even rarer is that this type of subject is usually just played for cheap laughs but here there's a complete story wrapped around it that asks a lot of questions, gives a lot of answers and as I said, is 100% confident about itself. The confidence just really jumps off the screen unlike any movie I've ever seen and that's where the original aspect of this film comes. There have been countless movies that downplay women but this one here just does so in such a fresh and original way that you can't help but enjoy it. It also is very smart about guys, their mentality on sex and various other issues. Gordon-Levitt does a wonderful job all around but especially in the acting department. As the writer he certainly knows this character very well but it still takes a very strong performance to get that to the screen and the actor does a fabulous job. Johansson also turns in her greatest work outside of a Woody Allen picture and Tony Danza is very memorable in his supporting bit as is Glenne Headly and Julianne Moore. The screenplay is certainly dirty and covers a lot of topics but the film never crosses the offensive line. The main reason it doesn't cross the line is that it remains smart no matter what it's saying and how dirty it's being said. DON JON is certainly a refreshing film that should get one excited thinking that Gordon-Levitt could turn into someone to keep your eye on not just as an actor but as a writer and director.
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