“Donning” as Director
For a directorial debut, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Don Jon” leaves quite an impression. This dramedy revolves around the life of Gordon-Levitt’s character, Jon Martello, a typical, arrogant macho-man who cares about little of value. The role is a far cry from his most well-known performances, but he plays it convincingly with his slicked back hair and swagger.
Jon lists his priorities in the beginning of the film when he says, “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls and my porn.” When hearing this, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Jersey Shore guidos and their “gym, tan and laundry” mantra. Throughout the film we are reminded of the rut that Jon is stuck in, although it takes time for him to actually realize it. Jon’s attachment to pornography is largely the focus of the film.
One night at a club, he meets Scarlett Johansson’s character, Barbara Sugarman, and is so taken by her beauty that, after initially being rejected, he attempts to actually court her rather than shamelessly hook-up as usual. Johansson plays the role of a superficial princess rather well, with her tight dresses and Jersey accent. After taking her out and playing by her rules, Jon believes he is truly in love with her. It turns out that Barbra has an equally large attachment to romantic movies, which builds idealistic images of relationships in her head (something I’m sure most women can relate to).
Even while dating Barbra, Jon continues to watch porn to satisfy his sexual needs, for he believes sex in real life can never match up to the greatness of sex in pornography (something I’m sure will strike a chord with most men).
While at night class, which Barbara had encouraged Jon to attend, he meets an older woman named Esther, played by Julianne Moore. After catching Jon watch porn in class, Esther, who has no problem overstepping boundaries, helps Jon recognize the unrealistic and artificial nature of porn, and she introduces him to a world of vulnerability and meaning in a very raw and touching way.
What was great about this film was the way it could appeal to any gender, even though it was centered on a male. Ultimately the message of the film promoted the importance of mutual efforts by both people in a relationship. I appreciated the fact that it kept women accountable just as much as men for the unrealistic expectations held in relationships.
Although filled with far too many pornographic clips for my taste, I found this film to be incredibly insightful. Levitt manages to address the issue of media-born illusions with a fresh perspective. Another fun addition to the film was Jon’s father, played by Tony Danza, who was there to fill the middle-class, Jersey-Italian family stereotype.
In my opinion, Levitt can do no wrong as a class act entertainer. He’s an incredibly talented actor, writer and musician, in addition to showing superb promise as a director. Perhaps though, I say this with extreme bias as I have admired his work since “10 Things I Hate About You,” and “500 Days of Summer” remains one of my favorite movies of all time. Overall, “Don Jon” delivers as a quality film and leaves me excited for what more is to come from the beautiful Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
RECOMMENDED: Die-hard fans of JGL should be pleased by his directorial debut.