Don Jon DVD Review

4

An interesting and some might say brave move for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, taking on writing and directing duties for this film. It tackles a modern day scourge but packages it in a pseudo caricature setting, though it does lend some much needed heart in what is ultimately an honest endeavour. It may not delve too deep, but it does succeed more than it fails.

The Plot

A New Jersey guy has a porn addiction, even though he beds a slew of club girls and this whilst staying dedicated to his family, friends and church. That is until he meets the woman of his dreams Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) who seems to change his ideal of love and sex.

The Target

It is an R-rated comedy-drama with some explicit scenes and a very blunt approach to sexuality, so not for squeamish viewers, however if you can tolerate those elements, you may yet see the underlying sensitivity.

Don Jon 2

The Bottom Line

This has been called the nice or friendlier version of Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender’s ‘Shame’ – but whereas there he had a sex addiction, here Don Jon has a porn addiction and it inevitably gets in the way of the one personal relationship he has. From the very first images and footage you see, you’re confronted with how blatant mainstream media and society is with sexuality; its front and centre, always, mostly used as a tool to heighten something unrelated.

Perhaps a flaw to some is the fact that Don Jon wants you to like its protagonist by downplaying his flaws, and in that regard its aided by the fact that you’re not really led too far into what brought him to where he is now, though much of that is hinted at using his father as a barometer (played well by Tony Danza).

It does do a good job ripping off masculine stereotypes, but in that is perhaps also a flaw as this film is purely from a man’s perspective. It doesn’t tackle some of the deeper issues it raises as it wants to focus more on Jon and his problem. So, although it finds certain resolutions, it won’t solve much for the casual observer, because it tackles and solves the problem on a surface level. It’s not so much about true love, but more about losing yourself in the moment – this may not be the intended message, but it’s nevertheless one that comes to the fore as Jon learns the difference between sex and real intimacy.
At the root of the problem with pornography are men, searching for validation within fantasy – a place with little risk.

DonJon Joseph-Gordon-Levitt
Another aspect of the film that’s brushed over, despite making a clear commentary on it, is the role of religion. And just like the exaggerated Jersey accents (for comedic effect – though only the main players talk with accents) the representation of the catholic church is also very blunt, portraying it as a by-the-numbers faith (involving “hail Mary’s” and “Our Father’s”) that has little to do with God(or god) or spirituality and falls into the pit of cliches. It also neglects the actual psychological impact pornography has on men. This effectively simplifies the story to encompass the flesh and little more.

Adding a tad more gravity though, is Julianne Moore’s ‘Esther’. Although the latter third does benefit from her frank performance as well as a very blunt insertion of maturity in the overall narrative, with her somewhat warped guidance, it – again echoing the macho perspective – is somewhat convenient for the main character.
Overall there are many character’s that aren’t all that fleshed out (excuse the pun) as it uses that dynamic for comic relief whilst touching on the heavier issues. Essentially it doesn’t give your average guy much to aspire to, and while it is vulgar and almost makes you watch cheap porno videos (unless you fancy that kind of thing), it still manages to be a decent film.

3.0

The Good

  • Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut is minus any major/deep flaws so far as filmmaking goes– a noble effort and a very good start.
  • It’s bluntness toward sexuality may be a slight wake-up call to some.
  • It is a well packaged film with succinct storytelling, allowing you to focus more on the issues it raises.

The Kak

  • The subject content means it’s not for everyone – and it may not resonate much as it potentially could. Most women won't enjoy this,unless they're fans of JGL.
  • Fails to delve deep as it focuses more on the comedic side of things, not wanting to confront the underlying seriousness of the subject matter, and falls into predictability.
  • The accents felt forced, along with the generalizations and stereotypes, which, along with the machismo means it’s a film with a narrowed perspective.

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About the author

Steven Benjamin

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A Capetonian – the only son, amongst four siblings, of a demure working mother and a missionary (once upon a time) for a father. Humble and God fearing, I’m a writer looking to add a different perspective whilst also telling stories on the side. I’ve lugubriously turned to writing after failing in a mental attempt to become a Formula 1 driver. I’m currently also working on my spicy debut novel, "Peacekeeper"!

  • Tamsin

    Im a woman and very open minded and I really enjoyed this, in the beginning I was like wtf am I watching!? But it was total worth it in the end :)

    • http://stevenbenjamin.weebly.com/ Steven Benjamin

      Glad you enjoyed it Tamsin – it is kind of up to the individual, I know a few women who gave the ‘I dunno’ shrug about it. It works better if you take it as a ‘funny’ on serious issue with a bit of heart, but it certainly did downplay pornography as a whole, not quite advocating it, but brushing it aside…

      What are your thoughts on that?

      • Tamsin Putter

        Hi Steven sorry it took so long to reply! Didn’t get a notification. Hmm pornography for me is kinda like drugs some people like it and some people don’t and the fact that there will always be a market for it they will continue to make both. I don’t have an issue with porn as long is its done in moderation, this guy took it to the extreme and it started to rule his life which was his downfall. Everything in moderation right?

        • http://stevenbenjamin.weebly.com/ Steven Benjamin

          That’s a very liberal take on it.
          Emphasizing how it’s up to the individual…