In an era when romantic comedies have become a cussing arena for anyone whose tolerance for the genre is proportionate to tantrum-inducing levels, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the indie-kid-turned-Hollywood-lovechild, attempts at reviving the genre with this occasionally middling yet deliciously outspoken Don Jon. His brand of comedy is refreshing, knowing that the genre has degraded from the Golden Age screwball down to the junkyard littered with recycled, atrociously scribbled pieces of crap targeted at mush-brained, popcorn munching audience. Like Steve McQueen’s Shame, only without the puffing seriousness, Don Jon features a douchebag obsessed not with good old fornication but rather modern technology’s paramount invention – online porn.
Hilarious satirical as it is wildly dramatic, the central conflict of Gordon-Levitt’s protagonist (not that the film’s beefed-up, gym-bunny-cum-wanker considers this a ‘conflict’), is that the he essentially finds fucking too boring, and that porn is far more interesting. Which makes it more implausible when Don Jon acquires Scarlett Johansson’s bootylicious but straight-talkin’ New Jersey girl. Any hot-blooded male with heterosexual inclination would attest you wouldn’t swap the figure-perfect Johansson for some seedy skin flick streaming online. But should it be this way, there wouldn’t be much else left for Don Jon to portray, would it?
So we have a portrait of his life in circuit, his life repeatedly going around circles from his church to the gym, to the club, to shagging subsequently followed by Pornhub. Repeat, ad infinitum. Although it may initially sound like one of those dim-witted movies about a bunch of homo-sapien pests who pathetically and desperately wants to get laid (American Pie, Inbetweeners and other related brain-sapping crappery), Don Jon actually tries to reach for intelligence and purpose of its cultural examination. Jon’s addiction to porn and inability to enjoy real sex is, in fact, a commentary on a) the cyber culture, where individuals mindlessly exchange authentic experiences with quick, delusional virtual pleasures, and b) the objectivity of the female species.
Don Jon applies certain lurid aesthetics when dealing with women on screen. As Jon and his friends lurk in a club waiting for a virtuous lady to make the entrance (and by virtuous I mean model legs and surgically-enhanced boobs, they drool over a willing victim and end up fucking mechanically, comparable to the excitement of eating another burger in another McDonald’s joint. So when Johansson’s character enters into the picture, the ultimate girl’s girl Bratz doll personification, Gordon-Levitt wisely comments on the objectivity and mistreatment of an ‘idealised’ female figure, and subsequently ridiculing media’s destructive cult of image obsession. There’s even a bold fuck you to Hollywood romantic comedies at a certain point, disparaging the delusions rom-coms feed modern relationships. Julianne Moore emerges later on the most fully-rounded character, and despite her character resembling a narrative contrivance, she serves as a vessel to which Jon admits his insecurities and let go of them. In a telling way, Don Jon tells us that until you let go, selfishness turns relationships into a battle of sexes where there is no imminent victory, but just sore lack of fulfillment.
DIRECTOR: Joseph Gordon-Levitt | CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza | SCREENPLAY: Joseph Gordon-Levitt | DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures | RUNNING-TIME: 90 mins | GENRE: Drama/Comedy | COUNTRY: USA Words by Agne Aurelia & Janz Anton-Iago