Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Writers: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Motion Picture Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes
The internet has substantial power to corrupt and harm peoples’ perceptions of sex. The lack of real and immediate intimacy can desensitize those viewing sex remotely. Internet sex can advance stigmas, prejudices and encourage anti-social behaviour. It can be the same with internet violence, but that subject is less taboo than pornography which is, ironically, the most trafficked online content. It is rare for a film to tackle the topic of porn addiction so Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL), the writer, director and star here, deserves plaudits for Don Jon.
Gordon-Levitt’s Jon is sort of positioned as a modern day Don Juan and has accepted the ‘Don’ nickname from his admiring buddies. Jon spends his nights picking up ladies in neighbourhood bars and clubs and his days working out at the gym and watching porn. It’s a simple life. So simple that his work status is never confirmed. What we are told is that he loves his mother, goes to church each week, values his ride, his body, and good-looking chicks (on and offline).
Jon’s problem is his addiction to porn. He cannot go a day and sometimes an hour without it. He obsesses as much about internet sex as he does about his gym workouts and his weekly church confessions. It clouds his views on sex, love and relationships (that Jon feels are inferior in the real world). And that is the story being told here; how online porn can distort and ruin lives by preventing users from making real connections. It is a worthwhile and interesting tale, but the film comes up short in some key areas.
Jon is an unpleasant and one-dimensional character which is brave of JGL to create and play, but is unhelpful for most of the film. His interactions with the two main female characters are often awkward and Jon is hard to engage with. He chases and dates Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and hangs out with Esther (Julianne Moore). He loves the way that Barbara looks and he likes the way that Esther challenges him, but those couplings don’t always convince. It feels forced, the plot turns are well sign-posted, Jon’s family is a sit-com cliché (with Tony Danza playing dad), and only in the final 20 minutes does the film provoke real emotion.
Overall, this is a good first effort from JGL and the film should be applauded for its subject matter. The acting is solid, with Moore as usual showing up to best effect, and there are a few funny lines and scenes. It’s not particularly subtle or insightful, but I imagine that the intended 18 – 28 year old target audience will thoroughly enjoy it and possibly learn from it. To that extent it has to be classed a success.