Movie Review – Don Jon

It’s movie review time!  {distant clapping}  Yes folks, it’s time for “Amy’s Opinions on Movies”…hurrah!  I know you were all waiting with baited breath to see what I would say next…right?  Right???  {crickets}

 

Anyway…here we go.  The movie I’m reviewing today is Don Jon.  This, my friends, is a very good movie.  But, before I tell you about why I like this particular flick, let’s get a few disclaimers out of the way:  First, there will be spoilers.  I have not grasped the concept of reviewing a movie without actually talking about the important parts of said movie…therefore, movies will be spoiled.  Second, porn plays a big part in this movie.  Seriously, it’s like a main character alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Jon), Scarlett Johansson (Barbara), and Julianne Moore (Esther).  It outplays Tony Danza who, by the way, has a great supporting part as Jon’s dad and sits around in his wife-beater, yelling at the TV.  So, porn figures pretty high in the plot and there are a plethora of adult clips interspersed in the movie….nothing seriously hardcore but definitely not for those who can’t handle some boobs and such.

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Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the flick.  Joseph Gordon Levitt, who I’m just going to refer to as JGL from here on out, is awesome.  He’s so incredibly diverse with his talent, choosing his movies and roles in a way that suites only him.  Plus, there’s also that fact that he’s just freakin’ adorable too.  And while I love him as an actor, I respect him even more as a writer, director and musician.  He wrote, directed and starred in this gem and it’s all the better for it.

 

The premiss of the movie is this:  Jon is a player.  He and his two wingmen live in the same comfortable cycle:  hit the clubs, get laid (only with an 8 or higher), go to church, family dinner, say confession, workout, repeat.  He’s the master of his domain, keeps his apartment clean, keeps his car clean, keeps his life manageable.  He’s so good at landing the hot chicks that his buddies call him “Don” Jon.  But…he’s got a problem.   He’s addicted to porn.  So much so that he gets more pleasure from going ‘solo’ with the perfect porn clip than he does with an actual woman.  As Jon points out to the audience, the perfect clip offers a guy everything that he’s not going to get from a real sexual interaction because you can always find what you want online.

 

What JGL does so well, and so smartly, is that he draws us to the reasons why Jon has these unrealistic expectations.  He lays the influences out for us to see, not forcing them on us like a type of morality police, but smartly, quietly and subtly, without connecting any dots for us.   Perfect example:  an over the top burger commercial with a damn-near naked model comes on during Sunday dinner and Jon and his father practically drool in their spaghetti while his mother and sister wait patiently for it to pass before conversation resumes.  It’s painful to watch because the ignoring of the other women is so blatant.  But it’s extremely effective in presenting the dichotomy of how women are presented in modern day media and the reality of women and the general misunderstandings/frustrations that creates in both genders.

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Jon sees Barbara as the pinnacle of his weekend searches…she’s a ‘dime’, a 10 on his ever-present scale.  She’s got the hot bod, the gorgeous face and she knows how to use them to get what she wants.  And she knows exactly what she wants:  a good looking guy with potential that she can then mold into her version of the perfect husband.  Here’s where JGL gives equal time to what the media puts in front of women:  you want a man that checks all these boxes and if not, don’t worry, you can change him if your sexy enough.  By manipulating Jon with her body and the promise of sex (which she has been withholding) she gets him to enroll in a night class to ‘better himself’.  She’s got big plans for him, whether he knows it or not.

 

It’s tempting to say that this is basically Jersey Shore with a much better script writer but that’s too simple.  While the obvious correlations are there:  gym, tan, laundry, gelled hair, and partying, the reality is that this plays out in every corner of the country.  Each gender has been fed this load of false expectations and you see the manifestation of this in the inevitable conflict that starts to grow within the couple.  When she catches him watching porn after they had already had sex, she flips out but he is able to talk his way out of it.  He tries to quit but decides he can’t so he just gets sneaky about how he watches it.

 

Now here’s where things start to get even more interesting:  through his night class, which he hates but is taking to please Barbara, he continues to run into Esther.  Esther is a more mature woman, I’d peg her in her mid-forties, who catches Jon off-guard by her odd behavior.  She’s unexplainably sobbing before class when they first meet.  Next she calls him out when she catches him watching porn on his phone and, to make things even more awkward, she gives him a porn dvd as an impromptu gift.  She’s blunt and doesn’t take the hint that he really, really doesn’t want to talk to her.

 

But his discontent with Barbara grows and he seems surprised by it, he genuinely can’t understand why the relationship isn’t more fulfilling.  As this goes on, he begins to be drawn to Esther and we start to learn more about her.  We come to learn that her husband & son were killed in a car wreck 14 months ago and the way she copes is getting high before class and having casual sex with Jon as she alternates between resilient strength and raw weakness.  What we also see is that this is a woman who’s had real love and the real sex that comes with that type of relationship.  As she falls into Jon and he draws closer to her, he begins to learn that there’s more to things than the Jersey Shore-ish life he’s been living.  You see genuine sweetness between these two as he learns that really satisfying sex is a two-way relationship and has nothing to do with where you rank on a scale or what you do for a job.  And he finally finds that he doesn’t need to scour the internet for the perfect porn clip.  And Esther needs this cathartic relationship as much as Jon, you can see that she wants to care for someone again, even with the pain.

 

My favorite character of the movie has to be Jon’s sister.  I love the way JGL wrote her character.  Your know that when she and her friends go out, they aren’t rating high on Jon’s scale.  She doesn’t say a word for 99% of the movie, always off to the side texting and never receiving any attention from the father.  The one time she speaks up is after Barbara breaks up with Jon and his parents are crushed by the realization.  His father lusted after her and his mother saw her as the perfect Jersey housewife…when they find out their dreams of Jon having a family “just like theirs” have evaporated, they take it hard.  In the middle of the ruckus, the sister speaks the most perfectly rational statement:  It’s good that Barbara broke up with Jon because she didn’t really know him or care about him, she was just looking for a husband.  And the entire family listens.  The father and mother sit back down and Jon shares a very sweet interaction with his sister.  And that’s it…that’s all she says but the power in that statement and in the delivery was awesome.

 

So…I’ve basically just laid out the entire movie for you but I did warn you that there would be spoilers.  The point of all this is that if you can get past the role of porn in the movie, it’s got a great point and it’s smartly written.  So, go out and watch it.  If you want.  I’m not telling you to watch porn or anything, just if you can overlook that stuff then this is a movie you can enjoy.

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