Home » 2013 » Don Jon •••

Don Jon •••

Don_Jon_PosterStarring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johnasson, Julianne Moore
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Screenplay: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Comedy/Drama, Rated: R
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: September 27, 2013

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Scott, get ready for a modern Don Juan.


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

This movie may be a tear-jerker about lost love but you won’t see me break out a box of Kleenex.


Don Jon is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut and his first screenplay as well. We meet Jon (whose friends call him “The Don” because he’s a master of the pickup) at a local bar where he and his friends are rating women on a scale from one to ten. Jon has good luck with the ladies, nightly scoring with eights and above. One night, he spies Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) who is a perfect ten – a “dime.”  He is then in pursuit of this beauty, willing to give up his life of debauchery and even go to school to please his woman.


But one thing Don Jon is not willing to give up is his porn addiction. When Barbara discovers that he watches porn, she orders him to stop. But he can’t stop because he realizes that he prefers porn to actual sex. Jon is able to hide his habit from her, or so he thinks. Meanwhile, at school he meets an older woman named Esther (Julianne Moore) who is definitely not his type — or so he thinks. There is some connection between the two and eventually Don Jon must make a decision between having his porn, having Barbara, or having Esther.


This is a clever and occasionally uncomfortable movie to watch. It deals with a man’s addiction to porography. And it gets a bit graphic. Jon tells us that he loves the detail he gets in his porn. Real women can’t compare because they all want to use the missionary position or refuse to give him oral sex.

Jon’s father is a classic Italian-American played by Tony Danza (still in good shape for a guy his age). He’s impressed with Jon’s new acquisition of Barbara. It’s one of the few things Jon’s father approves of. The scenes at Jon’s family house remind me of the opening scenes to 1977’s Saturday Night Fever. Jon’s mom just wants him to get married and give her some grand children while his younger sister is engrossed in her cell phone – texting away.


Don Jon Is a crude yet fascinating foray into the world of not just porn addiction but also sex addiction. We encounter a young man whose priorities center on the physical world, especially his car, apartment, girlfriends, sexual release, and building up his body. His life is as shallow and superficial as it gets, and the whole point of the movie is to portray how he becomes aware of this shallowness and is able to do something about it.

For me, this movie is all about growing and evolving from an adolescent mindset and lifestyle into adult maturity. Although Don Jon is truly entertaining, I confess to wincing at the horrific way in which Don Jon and his friends view women as objects to be conquered. It’s also painful to watch him fight his sex addiction without much success. His only hope is to discover a new and healthier worldview about romance, and it’s enjoyable to watch the transformation slowly unfold.


Scott, I think you’ve summed it up pretty well. I had a hard time with this film because it took nearly half of the 90-minute running time to get to the conflict – the point where Jon meets Esther. I was wondering what this film was about for that whole time. I enjoyed the many devices Gordon-Levitt used in his storytelling: the opening porn montage, the pickup montage, and a great stop-motion montage when his character goes on a porn binge.

However, the film never recovered from the slow pace and late introduction of Esther. I give Don Jon 3 out of 5 Reels. I liked Jon’s transformation but I found it a bit unbelievable so I give him 3 out of 5 Heroes.

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Greg, I agree that the major plot-points in Don Jon unfold a bit too slowly. The film  spends too much time portraying the details of Jon’s sex addiction and too little time on the details of his transformation from a sex-crazed adolescent to a mature adult human male. Still, this is one of the few movies that I’ve seen that deal with what could be a porn addiction epidemic in our society. The movie’s take-home message about mature love, and how to acquire it, is both rare and commendable.

I’m also awarding Don Jon 3 Reels out of 5. The story of a man’s ability to conquer his addiction is well done and has many of the elements of the classic hero’s journey. Jon is thrown into an unfamiliar world, encounters help from two unlikely sources, has entanglements with at least two different father figures, and emerges forever changed. For this reason I’ll bump up my heroes rating to 4 out of 5.

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