MoviefiedNYC Reviews: Don Jon

Joseph Gordon Levitt has been in the movie making business since 1988. He’s starred in roles both big and small, flashed his charming smile as a child in 3rd Rock from the Sun and won over audiences everywhere with 500 Days of Summer. Most recently he has tried his hand at directing with his new film Don Jon. The story seems simple: boy meets girl. It’s a Hollywood favorite. Don’t be fooled though, JGL is no slave to the system, this is a man who promotes small time artists and experimental individuals with his open collaborative production company hitRecord. So, what can you expect from this film? A very sweet and thought provoking surprise.

JGL appears to beat the Hollywood system at its own game by presenting the perfect formula: take 1 buxom blonde, 1 handsome bar tender (with a six pack if possible), throw in some sidekick friends and sprinkle some family members for comic relief. The result appears to be the typical, guilty-pleasure fulfilling, romantic comedy that we have all come to know and resent. Despite this, JGL offers us up something more; he offers us substance. He also offers us porn. Lots of porn.

Don Jon is a womanizing, body building, bar- tending, Jersey boy who rates women on their looks alone. The bar scene is his playground as he brings girl after girl home for ultimately unsatisfying sex. The women are beautiful but they lack the porn star moves that Jon has come to rely on for true satisfaction. This pattern repeats itself until he eventually meets “the one”. Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) plays the dime, the most beautiful thing Jon has ever seen, the best girl in the bar. He meets her friends, signs up for a class, brings her to dinner and slowly but surely begins to morph himself into the man she wants him to be. Usually, this is where the movie would end but as it turns out the story is just beginning.

JGL forces us to step back from the fairytale ending so as to look at the bigger picture. Barbara represents the numerous women in the world who try to mold their boyfriends into the hyper-masculine yet vulnerable leading man. In her world, sex is not an experience but a prize to be given to whomever can fill the role in the movie of her life. Meanwhile, Jon represents the numerous men who have started seeing women as numbers, positions and body parts. We never know if Barbara enjoys sleeping with Jon but we know that he needs porn to be satiated despite the “ten” sleeping next to him.

Jon’s parents gives us an insight as to where his relationship with Barbara is heading: nice house, nice kids, and nice family dinners. Church on Sundays, football on the TV and dinner on the table. However, this happy ending appears to be cracking under pressure as Jon’s mother (Glenne Headly) still dreams of true love vicariously through her son, while his father (Tony Danza) desperately attempts to assert himself as the alpha-male on any given occasion. Only Jon’s sister (Brie Larson), the most cynical and silent member of the family, seems to be aware of the disillusion between the sexes.

The truth of the matter is, is that today’s media has somehow managed to turn sex and love into two separate entities to be sold to two different markets. It’s relationship propaganda. Men are told that women want a “real man” who will read past the blurred lines (thanks Robin Thicke) and “take them” and in return for this act of masculinity they will be rewarded with pornographic sex. Meanwhile, simultaneously, women are been told to be both doe eyed and innocent as well as flirtatious and sexy, and as reward they will get a “real man” that will sweep them off their feet with confessions of love and adoration. Ultimately, this type of mixed marketing has resulted in a society that is torn between eternal love stories and explicit money shots.

So whats a person to do? Well of course JGL supplies us with the answer. The soul and substance of this self-reflective film can be found in the form of the ever-talented Julianne Moore. Moore plays a woman. Not a girl, not a dime, not a ten nor a broad. A woman. She is not perfect, in fact she is damaged but not in a way that can be saved by the right guy. She does not try to drive men wild with her feminine wiles or sex kitten style. In fact, she does not play any games at all. Instead, she simply lives in the moment, whether that means she takes the time to break down crying, burst out laughing, have sex, get high, talk to strangers or impart wisdom onto others. She doesn’t look for a happy ending, instead, she tries to find comfort in the present.

Don Jon asks it’s viewers to resist the urge to fit into the Hollywood mold, to stop meeting the expectations of others and to stop thinking about how everything should be. Life is not an outcome but a series of moments. It is what you are doing, who you are doing it with, and how you are experiencing it in the moment. Put away the laptops, delete the porn, stop watching romantic comedies and start investing in the moments and the people surrounding you now. This is a movie of self reflection and self awareness, and personally, I think Hollywood could do with a few more like it.

Let us know your thought on Don Jon, JGL and the Hollywood rom-com by tweeting us @MoviefiedNYC

– Sinann Fetherston


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