DON JON film review
By Dan O’Brien
Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his directorial debut with a confident and well crafted film tackling the subject of objectification. Gordon-Levitt put together an absolutely phenomenal cast including the Academy Award nominated Julianne Moore, the Golden Globe nominated Scarlett Johansson and Tony Danza, the Emmy nominated Glenne Headley and the talented up and comer Brie Larson. The plot is as follows: A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.
I have to admit that I wasn’t too sure about this one going in. The trailer was well put together and enticing but there was definitely this feeling of “Jersey Shore: The Movie”. And anybody who knows me could tell you that I try to avoid Jersey Shore at any and all costs. (If any Jersey Shore fans have just decided to exit this page what I meant to say was: I LOVE Jersey Shore! OMG! I can’t wait until Jersday! Isn’t Snooki such a slut?) Great, now that you’re all with me again, we can move on.
The first thing that struck me about the film was the honesty in it. Gordon-Levitt clearly didn’t feel the need to shy away from the porn addiction aspect of the story. (Not that I recognized any of the porn stars in the movie…because I just don’t…there’s no need to-woman love me okay? Why would I need to…oh never mind!) He uses Jon’s addiction to porn and Barbara’s love of cheesy romantic comedies as parallels to comment on societies need to objectify everything and everyone. We live in a consumer driven time. Technology has offered a lot of amazing things to enrich our lives and make us more connected then ever before. But, all of these amazing advancements have come at a cost. We’ve lost something. When I look around at the relationships people are engaging in nowadays, there’s something almost less human about them. Today it’s all about “well, she’s hot and he’s hot, so they should be together”. I thought the film played beautifully off of this theme. Because while relationships like this can be fun and seem important, what a beautiful thing it is to truly lose yourself in another human being. It’s impossible to capture down in words the feeling of standing naked (physically and emotionally) in front of someone and feeling totally at home. But if you’ve felt it, you’ll certainly know what I’m talking about.
The best thing about this film is the performances. Starting at the top, Gordon-Levitt knows his character backwards and forwards. He brings an authority and charisma to Jon that anchors the entire film. There aren’t many actors around these days that could pull off Jon’s character arc, but Levitt makes it look easy. Scarlett Johansson delivers a really interesting performance. The most brilliant thing about the performance is how Levitt uses it. The film is about objectification and everyone in the audience immediately objectifies Barbara when we meet her. She’s a dime, with legs that go all the way up to her ass. But then the brilliant thing is the film almost punishes us for viewing her in that way. A lesser director would have fumbled this plot point. Julianne Moore is as good as ever in the role of Esther. Her presence is always a welcome addition to any film.
While the film never quite reached a resonating point with me, I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt proved that he could pull of triple duty as the films writer, director and star. He’s been making short films for years through his online collaborative production company, hitrecord.org (which if you aren’t a member of; I suggest you immediately leave this site and sign up. Hitrecord is one of the most inspirational websites on the web-and that includes pornhub.com!) This is a movie you should go out and see, if for no other reason than they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.