Sunday, February 09, 2014

Don Jon (2013) ****

Tell people that you are addicted to drugs or to porn, and you are immediately labeled as someone with A PROBLEM.  On the other hand, people hardly think about the pathological properties of excessive television or cell phone use.  That’s one of the themes of Joe Gordon-Levitt’s “Don Jon”: everyone has their addictions.
Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is a handsome, un-cultured guido of the type depicted in the TV show “Jersey Shore.”  His life is pretty uncomplicated.  He works out, cleans his apartment, and goes out with his buddies to pick up girls on a regular basis.  He also jerks off to porn.  A lot.  Even though he has sex with a different girl every week, he prefers sex with just himself and his computer.  As Jon explains, he is able to lose himself while watching porn in a way that he can’t with the random girls he brings home.
When Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) enters his life, Jon hopes that pattern is going to change.  He is certainly in new territory when he finds himself pursuing her, introducing her to family and friends, and becoming her boyfriend.  The only really special thing about Barbara, though, is that she holds out on sex longer than other girls Jon has met.  That allows her to manipulate him for a while.
When Barbara catches Jon watching porn, she freaks out.  An older woman Jon meets in his night class (Julianne Moore) is a lot more open minded, and she helps him come to understand his porn not as a shameful secret but as a symptom of his emotional immaturity, and a habit that is helping him avoid personal growth.
Despite its titillating subject matter and graphic content, “Don Jon” is not really about porn.  Its about the ways in which people objectify each other, and not just sexually.  Don views women as sexual objects, of course, describing Barbara as the most beautiful “thing” he has ever seen in his life.  For her part, Barbara objectifies Jon, fitting him into a boyfriend/future husband role based on the Hollywood romances she watches so avidly, which serve as her own version of porn.
It would be easy for this to be a heavy, preachy film full of in-your-face messages, but the good news is that “Don Jon” is a really fun movie to watch.  There is graphic sexual content that will drive away some viewers, but most will find it thought-provoking and often hilarious.  Everything about the movie is well-done, and considering that Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed it, “Don Jon” serves notice that he is going to be a filmmaker to watch.

4 stars out of 5

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