93. Don Jon
2013, 90 Minutes
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, & Julianne Moore.
By J.T. Tepnapa
Here’s another romantic comedy-drama that I missed last year. All I knew about this movie is that it stars the very handsome Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I actually crossed paths with him years ago. I think he thought I was ogling him, but really I was shocked to see a celebrity in a North Hollywood diner.
Anyway, I was quite surprised to find out that JGL not only starred, but also wrote and directed Don Jon. He certainly created an interesting character for himself, his direction is solid and he assembled a great cast. I only wish the screenplay was as solid as his direction.
JGL plays Jon Martello, a modern day Don Juan, who gets all the ladies. And he has simple pleasures in life. All he cares about is –
“My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls … my porn.”
It’s the porn that he seems to care about more than anything else. Sometimes masturbating to porn more than 20 times a week and then going to church to absolve his sins. The problem is the porn gives him more pleasure than does actual sex with women. With real women, there is only the missionary position, unlike the hours of various positions the idealized women are arranged in his pornhub.com videos. Off the computer screen, he finds a true hottie at the night club played by Scarlett Johansson. Unfortunately, his Don Juan moves strike out with the mystery girl. Through a bit of detective work and some Facebook stalking, he finds out her name, Barbara Sugarman. And unlike his other sexual conquest, she demands to be wooed before she’s willing to have sex.
I ADMIT Don Jon is a strange entry to add to my 100 Films Before Summer. Most boy-girl romantic movies are demographically aimed at women. And Don Jon makes fun of that stereotype. In many ways, this is a movie for the guys. It’s not about finding true love and romance, it’s about finding the woman who’s better than the women idealized in porn. It’s about finding a relationship that’s a two-way street.
Those of you old enough to have watched the 1980s TV sitcom, Who’s the Boss, will love seeing Tony Danza playing JGL’s dad. It was good to see him in a movie. And like Joseph, Tony Danza is totally ripped in his white tank top. Unfortunately, the family relationship is a bit one-note. Their scenes play out like MTV’s Jersey Shore.
MY FAVORITE scenes are actually those featuring Esther, a middle-aged business student played by Julianne Moore. She plays her with refreshing honesty and utter sincerity. And I suppose that’s why these scenes stand out. Everyone in Don Jon is putting on an act; no one is completely honest. But it’s Esther’s honesty that slowly breaks down Jon’s addiction to porn and urges him to examine what he really wants from a sexual relationship. And it’s ironic that the very missionary positions Jon found tedious with most women become something passionate with Esther.
The movie definitely takes an awkward turn with the introduction of Julianne Moore’s character, but they are right turns when it comes to honesty and passion. And although it’s not true love for Jon Martello, it might be as close as he can get.
And maybe that’s what Joseph Gordon-Levitt is trying to say. Maybe men in relationships turn to porn because they are lacking something in their real relationships. Or maybe some men are too afraid to truly surrender themselves to another person.
Although Something Like Summer is a much more romantic movie, the two stories have some similarities. Like Don Jon, Ben has an opportunity to have two loves in his life: A high school romance with Tim and an adult romance with the more mature Jace. And like Julianne Moore’s character, Jace teaches Ben a lot about growing up and being a more honest man.
The movie is mostly serious, but the introductions of Scarlet Johansson and then Julianne Moore lighten up the tone. Also, I gives the sparkling hearts for JGL’s multiple shirtless scenes. He worked out for this movie and he really showed it off!
Available on Netflix and Amazon DVD/Blu-ray and Instant Video.