Friday Film Review: Don Jon

As promised, here is the first installment of my Friday film review series – and boy is it a doozy!  I will try my best to not give away any spoilers ever (even when I review really old movies), and for this particular review, I’ll try and refrain from using the words “jizz” and “fucking” all the time.  But this movie was about sex and porn so move along if adult content isn’t your thing.  Also, even though I’ve got a degree in film studies, I refuse to write reviews like all the other critics out there.  So there you are, now you’re prepared, let’s go!

Photo source: Nerdist
Photo source: Nerdist

I’m not going to lie, the first ten minutes of the movie made me cringe.  And it wasn’t because of all the porn clips they were showing.  It wasn’t because he had a basket full of ejaculatory specimen tissues.  It wasn’t the fact that the Windows startup sound is forever ruined for me.  It wasn’t the language.

Wait, it WAS the language.  But it wasn’t the naughty language, it was the sexist language.  It was the blatant objectification of women, rating them on a numbered scaled, and the “conquest” talk.  I thought to myself, great, another shitty Superbad-type movie.  Oh, but I was so very wrong!

Don Jon follows a young man from Jersey (like, one of those meat head types), played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  He cares about only a few things – church, sleeping with women, his car, his friends, his family, his body, his apartment – but none more than his love of porn.  In fact, he loves porn more than he loves actual sex, because he can “lose himself” in porn.  Real sex just doesn’t do it the same for him.

First, let’s talk about the technical aspects of this film.  The movie had a very defined rhythm.  It used repetition eloquently – we see his day played out over and over again, with only slight variations.  It felt like the rhythm of everyday life… OR… it felt like sex.  Yes, this movie felt like ridin’.  Other than that, the writing was just perfect.  Not only was the story perfectly written, but the characters were real.  There were multidimensional men and women, even as they acted out as caricatures of themselves.  Of course, the characters were brought to life by great acting.  To be honest, I haven’t really seen a lot with Scarlett Johansson, but she was just… amazing in this role.

OK, the good stuff.  Let’s talk about the story.

This movie will having you laugh out loud a lot.  There are a lot of porn clips, but really, the sex represented within the story is actually pretty tame.  Sex is talked about a lot in an honest, uninhibited way (I mean the language was racy).  I really appreciated this, because by doing it, he immediately removes the mystique of sex.  And really, by throwing it in your face so much and so early on and in an aggressive way, by the time we get to the good stuff in the movie, we are desensitized, and can pay attention to what really matters.

When it comes down to it, the story breaks my heart.  The message is very clear pretty early on:  Objectifying women hurts EVERYONE.  I feel bad for everyone.  They are victims of a lie they’ve been told about sexuality, family and gender and it makes them dysfunctional.  Jon (JG-L) is visibly hurt by his porn addiction.  However, the movie doesn’t show men as total victims of the system.  That would piss me off.  No, the movie is much more balanced and complicated than that.  It’s smarter than to create a polarized argument.

But let’s not forget about how women are made to perpetuate all of this: lady porn (AKA, “mommy” porn).  Barbara (Johansson) is obsessed with all those romantic movies that tell her a man should do everything to please her and love is a perfect package where nothing is dirty and romance is clearly defined.  Her bedroom at her parents’ place is drenched in pink and a giant Titanic poster.  God, there’s even a “sex” scene in which they get off on HER porn (talking about meeting the family, taking night classes, etc).  OK, I totally can relate.  My favorite lady porn is Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.  God, that movie really takes the cake.  It even has an awesome soundtrack for me to dance to while I dream of a man ordering me around and literally fighting another man to win me.  It even makes light of rape.  But I love that movie, so shut up.

This movie touches on almost everything wrong with objectification.  From how religion takes a part, homophobia, to violence in sexual frustration, father/son aggression, and slut shaming by both men and women.  I could write a book.  Hey, Joe, if you read this and want to commission a well thought out, detailed, but not-academic-at-all book, call me.

And finally, let’s talk about Esther, played by Julianne Moore.  She kind of represents the “dirty” part of relationships with human beings.  We all meet her when she’s crying and having an emotional meltdown and Jon is DISGUSTED with her.  She’s weird.  And not cute, Zooey Deschanel weird.  Weird like how when I stare at people in public and don’t look away when they catch me (ahem).  But she’s open, non-judgmental and sees our protagonist.  At first, it makes him angry (even aggressive and violent).  But eventually, well… just watch the movie.

Obviously, I loved this movie, and would recommend it to everyone, young and old.  The end, I promise you is not corny or predictable.  None of the movie is corny.  I laughed, I choked up, and it truly touched me.  Sure, there’s a really powerful message about objectification of women, but even more, the film shows you what exactly it means to see others, and to connect with them.

Favorite Line: “Are you watching people fucking on your phone?” – Esther
Favorite scene: The opening scene.  With the glorious sound of the computer and long moments of masturbation.  It was special the first time.

Is it too early for me to call Joseph Gordon-Levitt a genius?  We need more movies from him.  This movie definitely makes up for 500 Days of Summer.

Movie stats, courtesy of IMDB:
Written and Directed: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Runtime: 90 minutes
Date: 2013

Currently streaming on Netflix.

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