‘Don Jon’ Movie Review – Breaking Down Barriers
While sex may be as transparent as possible in the movie industry nowadays, porn still hasn’t reached that height. It’s not nearly as taboo as it was decades ago, and movies like Boogie Nights have pumped the prime (eek…word choice) for more movies on the subject, but it’s still got a ways to go. Don Jon, the directorial debut of the very talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is about as in-your-face (eek…again) about sex, porn, and masturbation as a movie can be. However, it miraculously avoids being just a raunchy comedy and puts a lot of heart into the main character and his quest for love.
Don Jon has the same internal conflict most romantic comedies have. It’s the story of a guy, named Don (Gordon-Levitt), trying to find the perfect girl. However, part of that conflict involves his desensitization to love because of his porn habits. Although he’s a muscular womanizer that pulls 10’s every weekend, Don isn’t the man when it comes to relationships. Until he meets the “most beautiful girl in the entire world” (his words) in a bodacious blonde named Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson). Despite being in a relationship, the external conflict brews between Don and Barbara as his porn habits come out.
Don Jon was originally titled Don Jon’s Addiction and the change was probably a good idea. Gordon-Levitt didn’t want porn addition to be the chief conflict. Instead, he wanted Don and his struggles (which, yes, do involve porn) to be number one priority.
Part of his struggles do involve an older woman (Julianne Moore) he meets while attending night classes. The movie takes a different turn than you’d probably expect (or at least I expected). Before the movie, I knew Moore was involved in the story, but I just didn’t know how or why. Her part – without giving anything away – does seem a bit awkward and out-of-place. However, the movie’s tone and overall feel matches this part of the narrative, so it doesn’t necessarily make it a distraction.
Gordon-Levitt sets this tone early with a stellar, but inappropriate, opening. Even though he’s known as a “nice guy” in Hollywood, JGL comes out of his shell with some blatantly raunchy scenes. But his script also masterfully adds in the humor it needs to keep the plot from getting over-sexed.
Quickly returning to his image, I think it’s fun to see him test the bounds of what we expect. Having seen trailers and whatnot for the movie previously, I wasn’t shocked to see him as a womanizing sleazebag, but it still seemed off. However, it’s a testament to his acting abilities when I say he pulls it off completely.
As you can imagine, overall the movie demonstrates Gordon-Levitt’s range – both as an actor and as a filmmaker. It also marks his inevitable debut to the big screen since starting his HitRECord production company years ago. If we’re using that as a starting point, we’d expect Don Jon to be a creative project that is centered around a good story.
And that’s precisely what it is.
It’s always nice to see a movie breakout of its genre. Romantic comedies can seem formulaic and very conventional. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon does have these moments, but there are so many other moments that don’t seem genre-bound. From the dry humor in Brie Larson’s character to the Martello dinner table conversations, the script is funny in a variety of ways. It’s the story – mainly the character arc we see in Don – that really solidifies this movie as a winner because it sheds light on a subject we all want to avoid (porn) while juxtaposing a subject we all try to avoid (love).
Don Jon opened in wide release this weekend, so check a theater near you for a showing!
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