DON JON from Joseph Gordon-Levitt SXSW 2013 Movie Review
Don Jon, in the simplest terms, is a movie everyone should see even though the content is not delicate and Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn’t pull any punches in his role as director, writer or actor. In no way is this a film for all people, but I want everyone to see this film because Don Jon unapologetically takes on the objectification of….well, everything in our culture and sparks a conversation that begs to be had.
Don Jon is about Jon Martello, a Jersey boy very much in the vein of Jersey Shore (though not purposefully) who is all about the club scene, gym, women, family and church. Though all of these things take precedence in Jon’s life, none of them seem to have any substance behind them. The one thing that Jon seems to value most in his life, that he admits he gets the most fulfillment from is internet porn. Jon’s relationship with porn is more of a dependence than an addiction. Through secondary narration of what is unfolding on-screen, Jon claims the action of looking at these women and pleasuring himself is more satisfying than sex with a real, live woman. This has never been an issue for Jon who brings women home on a very regular basis, immediately following up such an encounter with a few intimate moments with his laptop. All of that changes when Jon meets his match in Barbara Sugarman, played by Scarlett Johansson.
Barbara doesn’t give herself up to Jon so easily and once she does, she expects the porn to be a thing of the past. Ms.Sugarman has her own version of Jon’s porn dependency with the expectations she sets forth in her own life and relationship based on what is presented in romantic Hollywood films. In the midst of bettering himself in preparation for his life with Barbara, Jon is pushed in to taking community college courses. It is while in these classes that Jon discovers he does have depth and can connect with others after very reluctantly getting to know Esther (Julianne Moore). Esther’s own tragedy and need to connect with others, no matter how inappropriately takes Jon by surprise and brings out a side of himself of which even he wasn’t aware, changing the way he sees the world.
Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore embody these women and what they represent so fully, and in such a genuine manner that you really understand their journey, and even more importantly the part they play in Jon’s journey. Julianne Moore moved me beyond words in this film and every single performance is spot-on, from Brie Larson as Jon’s unaffected sister to Tony Danza as his macho father, incorporating all the small details and idiosyncrasies that make us all individuals. Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages once again to transform himself completely and becomes Jon, sharing with us emotional highs and lows, including a moment or two reminiscent of 500 Days of Summer.
With Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns his camera on all of us and calls everyone in the audience out on our unrealistic expectations for one another. Whether it be Jon’s incessant need to watch porn every day, or Barbara’s (Scarlett Johansson) need for her Hollywood-contrived happy ending, or this guy’s need to be in a corner office to find value in his life and hold himself over others, or that girl’s obsession with looking better than everyone else in the room to feel powerful, objectification of ourselves and others is paramount in our society and value is misplaced on things and ideals rather than people. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has found a tongue-in-cheek way to tell everyone to wake up and remind us all to just be human.
Don Jon is set to be released October 18, 2013. I strongly recommend those without delicate sensibilities go see it, and I encourage those with delicate sensibilities and preconceived notions to try to put them aside long enough to see this film and maybe change the way you see the world.
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