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Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut introduces us to the titular character Jon Martello; a lothario who is named the Don for his apparent irresistible nature to women. However, the young lothario is a porn addict whose longest relationship is with his laptop and the film is his journey to what will either be a trip to the hospital due to dehydration or happily ever after.
Gordon-Levitt has done an admirable (if not slightly underwhelming) job of bringing to light the superficiality of romance in the twenty-first century. Jon Martello is a young man whose main focuses in life are those of surfaces and simple bodily pleasures rather than genuine connections with other human beings. His friendships are shown to be nothing more than ego-boosts (as his friends fail to attract women, unlike him) and his family dynamic is one in which his Mother is nothing more than a Stepford Wife stereotype. He is a character that initially drew my ire because there is nothing likeable about a young man who obsesses over materiality, how he looks in the mirror and where the next girl to sleep with is going to come from. I can see what JGL was trying to do; shed light on the misogynistic and shallow nature of today’s relationships but unfortunately, he only scratched the surface.
When Barbara is introduced, she is realised as a hyper-sexualised bimbo whose only power in life is making a man wait to get into bed with her. Scarlet Johansson plays her role well with a nice balance of malice and warmth, but ultimately the same fate befalls her character as it does every other; not enough time to know her.
Just like Jon, she is a character presented to be nothing more than a pastiche of modern day clichés provided to her through a plethora media outlets. Whilst Jon is addicted to porn, Barbara is addicted to romantic-comedies and both addictions provide a warped sense of reality that they both believe in and which ultimately renders them emotionally crippled.
The film explores this on a surface level and never really delves into deep-rooted psychological reasons for delusional behaviour and addiction, instead choosing to poke fun at it. The only time that Jon’s character searches for deeper meanings is with the introduction of Esther (played by the ever-reliable Julianna Moore). She is a sexualised mother figure who teaches Jon essentially how to be a functioning member of society rather than a pervert who watches porn in class. She is somewhat clichéd herself; the older, wiser woman who leads the younger male down a transformative path. Frustratingly, the audience are shown this transformation through a change in hairstyle and wardrobe options, rather than being allowed to see a radical change in lifestyle. Also, Julianne Moore looked a little disinterested at times and the relationship is not entirely believable.
Overall, Don Jon is a sometimes funny and illuminating film that never quite gets further than skin deep. It touches on various issues but doesn’t have the time to elaborate on them all. The one true positive to take away is that his representation of young men watching porn is absolutely spot on (rather than being an infantile representation such as in American Pie). I laughed and I yawned but I’ve had a lot worse experiences at a cinema this year.
Wait for it to come out on DVD & other formats.