“Theres only a few things I really care about in life; my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls… and my porn”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and stars in his Don Juan modern morality tale, Don Jon. Gordon-Levitt’s narrative is certainly engaging as he pushes the limits of the romantic comedy into the present. Driven by men and women’s conflicting expectations of love and sex, the film forces us to question the reality of both the true love, ‘happily-ever-after’ movies and the estimations of pornography.
Barbra (Scarlett Johansson) is introduced as the woman who could potentially soften the overtly masculine caricature that is Don Jon. Barbra tells Jon, ‘Movies and porn are different, they give awards for movies’, to which Jon retorts, ‘They give awards for pornos too’. Visually, these ideas are only heightened through mystified, delusional close-ups of Barbara as they watch these dreaded Hollywood movies. Although satirical, Don Jon is light-hearted and bluntly open about notions of objectification and false realities, exciting the audience rather than ramming serious psychoanalytical thought down our throats, much like Steve McQueen’s acclaimed Shame.
At times, both Gordon-Levitt and Johansson seem unnatural in their roles, but perhaps this is because we are used to the Gordon of 500 Days of Summer. Entirely differently, Jon embodies very stereotypical notions of masculinity, as he and Barbara concern themselves with fitting the archetypal mould of our cyber, popular culture. However, amongst Jon’s routines of porn and self-satisfaction, we find his redeeming concern for Catholicism and his family.
In fact, it is when he is taught how to feel and engage emotionally by the maternal love figure of Esther (Julianne Moore), that the audience crave the ingeniously warped notions of cyber relations, porn and Jon’s satirical, Italian-American bodybuilder character. However, Moore’s performance definitely lifts and grounds the film, amongst Jon’s other loves; his pad, his ride, his boys and his girls.
Although highly entertaining and occasionally thought provoking, Don Jon never entirely convinces us that it isn’t part of the sex-obsessed, fantasy constructing popular culture that it claims to satirise.
by Isabelle Pitman, Razz Film and Literature Correspndent