This is a review of the movie Don Jon (2013). There is no need to sashay around it: this film is about porn. And it doesn’t take you long to figure out the rest of the plot.
The film is about Jon (Joseph Gorden-Levitt), a womanizer and hence nicknamed “Don Jon” by his friends. Jon has a love for porn and even loves it more than sex itself. According to Jon, women in real life don’t do the things women do in porn. And that’s the only place he can ‘lose’ himself completely: in porn. Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a ‘dime’ as he and his friends say. Jon feels sexually attracted to her and does everything for her, but then the sex – it disappoints. What follows is a series of predictable conversations and scenes that really don’t add much to the story. But then comes Esther (Julianne Moore). Who doesn’t love Julianne Moore. Julianne Moore is one of the few actresses who is able to demand her presence on screen. Esther is a down-to-earth woman doing the same course in evening school with Jon and is able to intrigue Jon in a way he never would have expected.
Don Jon is Joseph Gorden-Levitt’s directorial debut and he did not do a bad job at it. The film premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin where it was well-received. The film has its comedic moments and has an outstanding cast with Joseph Gorden-Levitt in the lead role, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore and Tony Danze as Jon’s “Jersey Shore” father to help lift the film. The script leaves little to the imagination and did not do most of the characters justice. But most of this is really due to the fact that there is little story to tell. Is the film about how porn can have a negative effect on people who are addicted to it, but in a less serious way than Shame (2011)? Is it about the effects of social media, the internet and all things on the web overall? How we’re unable to make connections with other people anymore without the web? As entertaining as the movie is from beginning to end, the end will leave you feeling ambiguous about what the film is really trying to say. The story stays somewhat on the surface and does not feel at all complete.
But like I said, Joseph Gorden-Levitt didn’t do a bad job at it. This is still a film you’ll enjoy watching. From the apt Italian / New Jersey pronunciation by Joseph Gorden-Levitt to watching an amazing cast perform for roles that were explicitly written for them by Joseph Gorden-Levitt, it does keep you watching. And editing-wise, it was done well. The fast pace editing suited the first part of the film (porn, sin and confession sequence) perfectly. Is it cutting edge? No, this style fits the 90s/2000s better where we’ve seen fast-paced editing in films such as Requiem For a Dream (2000), Pi (1998) – Darren Aronofsky employs this type of editing a lot – Snatch (2000), Fight Club (1999) and most Simon Pegg movies like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). But as his directorial debut, I have a feeling this is only the beginning of what is to come from Joseph Gorden-Levitt. Backed by his Hitrecord crew and followers, the man has been known to push creative boundaries on the web for years already. I am a fan since his early acting gigs (3rd Rock from the Sun, ftw!) and the man continues to intrigue. Maybe the story wasn’t about porn, the web or anything else but it was really just a plain romantic comedy. One with strong graphic sexual material perhaps – which is against genuine ‘rom-com’ rules – but maybe one that tells you that being a ‘we’ is better than being a ‘me’. Which is what rom-coms are in the end all about.
Watch the trailer below: