When I first heard about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s pet porn project, “Don Jon”, I knew in some way that it was pretty much required viewing for me.
I’ve been a smutty foot soldier in the adult industry for almost five years now, and in addition to being a serious film aficionado, I was curious to see what Gordon-Levitt had to say about the themes of porn addiction, fabricated romance, lust versus love and ultimately, the coming-of-age ability to be able to even tell the difference.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a rabid, ripped-up New Jersey snatch magnet who effortlessly pulls one night stands with gorgeous women, but after the endless montages of after-club coitus, we find him staying up late on his computer trying to fill his emotional void with the sexual junk food that is online porn. “Jon” actually prefers porn to real sex because as he coolly states, “There’s no smell, no taste.” With porn, Jon argues, one has access to a million flesh fantasies without any real repercussions, or so he thinks. That part I’ve always agreed with – that porn is pure fantasy and Jon is hopelessly lost in it.
Enter Scarlett Johansson. Her character, Barbara Sugarman is the first girl to tame and domesticate Jon, using the irresistible bait of withheld sex as leverage to mold him into the idealized version of what a boyfriend should be, which happens to fall in line with schmaltzy, shit-tastic Hollywood romantic comedies.”A real man would do anything for the woman he loves,” Barbara says with brainwashed conviction.
The film explores Jon’s addiction to online pornography as well as Barbara’s shallow and easy fascination with sugary, paint-by-the-numbers romantic comedies. They each get off in their own deluded way, only Jon has the luxury of befriending a revelatory Julianne Moore to help Jon realize that a perfect connection is one that is mutual and healthy.
That’s all I’m going to say about this film. JGL’s directorial debut is daring as hell. He tackles the ubiquitous elephant on the planet that is online porn and porn addiction and instead of tiptoeing around the subject, he makes it the center-piece. Every single guy can and will be able to relate to this film because online porn is relatively a new phenomenon and JGL explores the pros and cons of online porn mania without ever flatly demonizing it.
Gordon-Levitt realizes porn is a cultural experience that almost every single male participates in, but porn is just one of the many forms of entertainment humans crave. Jon’s father, played by a hilarious Tony Danza gets off on football, Barbara has emotional orgasms with her rom-coms and Jon of course, has his porn. The point is, we all have our quirky turn-ons. Some are harmless and some lie in wait for us like bear traps ready to snare us into obsession and eventual dysfunction. “Don Jon” is not a date movie by any means.
Instead, “Don Jon” is a very fast-paced, funny and sharp celebrity vehicle with various characters acting as living, breathing diagrams for Gordon-Levitt’s thought-provoking thesis: how much fantasy can one live in before it’s indistinguishable from reality?
And no, there are no Scarlett Johansson boobs.