Monday, November 4, 2013

Don Jon

DON JON                   C           
USA  (90 mi)  2013  ‘Scope  d:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt 

A movie for the Kardashian generation, as it’s largely about narcissistic behavior and how that dominates a certain privileged segment of society that’s used to always getting what they want, or are at least led to believe that they do.  Through material indulgence, people assume they’re getting what they want, but the short term happiness wears off very quickly as they’re back feeling the need for something else in no time.  While the premise and movie advertising plays into this wish fulfillment fantasy, believing that fantasy sex cures all ills, where media advertising is obsessed by marketing nearly everything through sexual imagery, people of all ages buy into this allure of MTV sexualized glamour.  The tabloid culture and Hollywood industry celebrate it, creating a blueprint fantasy template that a self-obsessed American culture is a happy culture.  At some point, when people realize they’re not happy, they can’t understand what happened.  This film uses an addiction to computer porn as the prime example of a short term memory, of a culture that suffers from attention deficit disorder, where people return to the same source of sexual satisfaction over and over again, even as they are having relations with actual people.  In this scenario, porn is actually better than real life, as you can make it whatever you want, so you can literally lose yourself in the fantasy, where every fiber in your body is about pleasing yourself, as opposed to real life where some energy is required to stimulate and satisfy a sexual partner, who also talks back, by the way, and may have other desires and intentions.  At least initially, the film feeds into this adolescent view, where guys play a ratings game for how sexual girls look in nightclubs, where the object of the game is to actually leave the club going to bed with one of them. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in his first directorial experience, also writes the film and plays the lead as Jon, a young guy addicted to porn while also developing a reputation for having the highest success rate for taking girls home from the club with him.  This impresses his two friends, Bobby and Danny (Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke), who wish they were more like him.  Jon defines himself by a simple mantra, “My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn,” where his life is a series of predictable routines, jerking off to porn, driving his ride while yelling belligerent comments to other drivers, working out in a fitness center, eating dinner with his family, while also confessing to the local priest once a week.  The film is built around these repetitive scenarios, as they provide the rhythm of the film.  Gordon-Levitt is a bit of a smart ass, a bit too cocky for his own good, but other guys look up to that, thinking this exudes confidence with the ladies.  When a voluptuous blonde walks into the club (Scarlett Johansson), the guys are rating her off the charts, and to their dismay, nobody scores with her.  Obsessed at his loss, Jon tracks her down on Facebook, Barbara Sugarman, eventually hooking up, believing she’s the answer to all his prayers.  While she continues to play hard to get, Jon starts changing his life around just to please her, including going back to school to earn a degree that would put him in a higher pay grade.  When she sees evidence that he’s doing what she asked, she starts having sex with him, where again he believes he’s reached the promised land, seen living in a Barbie doll princess paradise in her own home, even introducing her to his parents, where his overly critical, football-crazed, profanity obsessed father, Tony Danza, is finally proud of his son, as this girl’s a looker, concentrating only on her tits and ass, where his face lights up, like Bingo!

Rather than lead to a life of happiness and bliss where everybody lives happy every after, the film veers into different directions, where Barbara catches him watching porn just after they had sex, where she’s flabbergasted to think she wasn’t enough to satisfy any healthy man, believing she’s the ultimate in beauty and sex, as she’s molded herself to match the perfect image of what guys want.  Jon lies his way out of it, a temporary fix, promising her that he never watches the stuff, but then discovers he can find porn on his more mobile iPhone, where he can view it wherever he goes.  He’s again caught watching porn during his class (which he immediately denies) by none other than Esther (Julianne Moore), a more down to earth woman who finds it easy to talk to him, always being straightforward, which catches him offguard, as he’s used to saying what he thinks others want to hear.  So while the promotional lead-in to the movie is to stimulate the prospective audience with plenty of fantasy porn imagery, where Scarlett Johansson is little more than a porn queen herself who’s learned to put out sex in order to get what she wants, the so-called cure comes from Julianne Moore who has the audacity to suggest sex is a two-way street, that it can’t all be one-sided.  The film elevates this revelation as if it’s a cure for cancer, where very few already hooked on a selfish, me-first lifestyle are going to change their ways from watching this film.  Actually, people couldn’t run out of the theater fast enough after this movie ended, as if there was something icky associated with it, and where, perhaps, they didn’t want to be seen once the lights came up.  Had it been that kind of in-your-face, emotionally jarring experience instead of this sanitized, artificial fluff, one might have taken this more seriously.


  1. Note, please, that you have credited and labeled this film to DAVID Gordon-Levitt (possibly thinking of David Gordon Green). Although I agree with you on certain points of criticism, I liked the movie. One thing about your analysis I find odd: you seemingly handle the film as if it were a drama, when in fact it is a comedy, a satire to be precise. And a quite funny one, too.

  2. Hey, thanks for the comment. And I wish it were David Gordon Green, but that was a Freudian typo, apparently.

    Not to belabor a point, but any review that starts out "A movie for the Kardashian generation," is hardly meant to be taken seriously, and if I found the humor a bit shallow and overly superficial, where I didn't even begin to get into the crassness and offensiveness, then so be it. Whatever there is to be obtained from this movie is gone the moment you walk out of the theater, so even as pure entertainment, I found it instantly forgettable. And not everyone is into porn. Far from it. And many who are aren't insatiated by it. If it's a satire on the sex-driven, advertising heavy culture that manipulates our idea of happiness through sex, and turns us into an unfulfilled, attention deficit society, then I feel that point was made. Understand, this only speaks to people of privilege, the materialist, consumer society, no one else. The world is simply larger than that targeted group, so really, what relevancy does this film have in the real world? The movie itself is completely representative of the short-sightedness of American culture, and accordingly, is an average film.

  3. Well, I'm not very "Kardashian savvy". She's y o u r problem, thank goodness!

    On a more serious note: I don't wish to argue with your interpretation, simply because I find it understandable and legitimate. Even if this directorial debut may be a somewhat light effort, I found a lot to enjoy in the pacing and, especially, acting. Also, it was as a whole based on the assumption that the members of the consumer society (which is a large and powerful portion of the world) model their thinking after the media - and where does that lead to? Jersey Shore, for example. It was hilarious, how JGL modeled Jon's family and circle of friends after the values and actions represented in that (and similar) show(s). The effect of media on people on an emotional and cognitive level is the main theme of the movie examplified by the Jon character. And even if JGL doesn't come to a completely satisfying conclusion, he does make some relevant points with a considerable amount of energy. I give him credit for that.