Don Jon (2013) Film Review

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon Levitt) fancies himself to be a ladies man however when he falls for Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) he decides to settle down. This is harder than he anticipates and Jon finds giving up his true passion, internet porn, much more difficult.

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Don Jon opens as it means to go on. The slick montage that greets viewers bombards them with hyper-sexualised, pop culture imagery. This montage serves to introduce Don through external symbols. Don Jon is a man who finds meaning from his job, his apartment, and masturbation. Jon moves from his montage to a coldly light room. Don masturbates to the lonely glow of a laptop screen and the theme of the movie becomes apparent: objectification.

This brief scene doesn’t need to be any longer nor does it need to offer any more insight than it does. However this isn’t a dark genre piece about the pornification of Western culture and its objectification of feminine sexuality. Instead Don Jon is a surprisingly cheery romantic comedy, which may not surprise fans of Joseph Gordon Levitt. Levitt’s back catalogue includes 10 Things I Hate About You and 500 Days of Summer.

Don Jon is written and directed by Levitt and its no mistake that he also stars in it. It may seem arrogant to cast yourself in a role where you pull unattainably attractive women one after the other however; Levitt spends most of his screen time with a Kleenex pressed to his groin. This habit continues even after Barbara moves in and shows that the film isn’t about scoring girls but instead its about the difficulty in controlling sexual desires.

It’s not like Jon is a character that most people would like to meet and his view of woman isn’t admirable. Jon views women from an impossible perspective. His view of sexuality is the hyper, glossed one that belongs to the porn gaze. This isn’t a real world that Jon inhabits but rather one defined by representations instead of true physical reality.

Don Jon is about a man battling his porn addiction but it’s also about a man trying to find some sort of real connection. The film manages to be reflective of wider mass media culture and the ideal romance is almost parodied in Jon and Barbara’s relationship. Nothing is neat and tidy in real life and the same can be said for Jon’s life.

There is a good pacing to this film and at times it uses quick cuts that wouldn’t look out of place in a music video. This fast movement from scene to scene mirrors the way that we process mass media texts and Jon provides a helpful voice over. Information is distilled quickly and succinctly.

Don Jon turns from a film about a sex addict to a film about a man looking for true love. The skill in the writing and direction lies in the fact that this transition never comes across as cheesy but instead completely natural

Don Jon’s about growing up and leaving childish traits behind and the film works really well. It proves Joseph Gordon Levitt’s considerable talents in writing, acting, and now directing. Perhaps best of all it stands out as a film that’s original and it manages to find humour in the protagonist’s vices and addictions.

Don Jon manages to discuss contemporary issues all with a smile on its face. Forgive the contrived ending and give it a watch. You’ll be satisfied.

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