There are only a few things I really care about in life
and my porn.”
Joseph Gordon-Dreamboat has been building quite an acting career. With Don Jon, he makes his feature-length directorial debut. Not only that, Gordon-Levitt also wrote the screenplay. Warning alarms should be going off, but he’s proven himself to be an intelligent man.
When he was promoting (500) Days of Summer, Gordon-Levitt was well aware of something it seemed most of the audience wasn’t, that his character was chasing a dream, and thus treating the woman, Summer, with unrealistic expectations. Something which is so human and easy to do.
He takes that and explores it further in Don Jon where Jon (Gordon-Levitt) is chasing a dream only known to him through pornography, while Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) is chasing the dream only found in romantic films. Barbara would be that woman who, incorrectly, would find Gordon-Levitt’s character in (500) Days of Summer to be an ideal man.
I think the biggest failure of this film is Barbara; the woman is mirroring Jon’s perceptions of love and relationships, so dramatically, but the film very much never evaluates her thoughts, except to confirm that Jon has changed. This film could be more effective if it put the two characters on equal footing. Rather than Jon being a developed character and Barbara a caricature, they could have ran two parallel stories.
Jon finds a better sexual partner in Esther (Julianne Moore), who is looking for a good lay, but no relationship. I honestly think she picked extremely poorly. If you’re looking for a no strings attached relationship, you don’t go for the man you have to teach how to be a respectful and open sexual partner, but that’s part of the problem of the film.
The entire relationship between Esther and Jon is extremely forced. Esther has been disrespected time and time again by Jon until he is out of his relationship with Barbara and wants an easy lay. This wouldn’t be a problem if Esther’s character was able to be a character without any self-respect, but her role in teaching him to be a good human to his fellow sex-partners is contrary to her lack of self-respect.
The sexual relationship between Esther and Jon just happens, it feels forced and unnatural.
Family can stop reading now…
Then there’s the sex… much like his religion, it seems transactional.
The film is filled with church scenes, where Jon goes to confession, and for a transaction of Hail Marys and the Lord’s Prayer1, Jon is forgiven. For an orgasm, Jon must go to school, must become the ideal man for Barbara. Then there’s Jon’s opinions on sex, and why it’s inferior to masturbation.
- Missionary only
- He has no interest in giving oral, unless to get oral
- He thinks women have no interest in giving oral, unless to move things along quickly
- Condoms are horrible
- No money shot
Okay, I’ll agree on one thing, condoms are horrible, but the rewards outweigh the losses. I did grow up in the 80s and 90s when people were dying from sex… use a condom, make no babies, get tested.
The rest… oh my god! What the hell are you doing wrong? It has to be you! I can’t even fathom what he’s doing wrong to find all these limitations on sex. Sex should be a time when people come together2 to have fun and experiment. Fears should never enter into it, and if one is open to trying new things, they’ll find it easy to do with someone they respect, even in a one-night stand.
I think Gordon-Levitt is trying to say this with Jon’s and Esther’s relationship and the redemption that comes with that, but jeezy creezy, it’s not done so well. We don’t see enough of Jon’s and Esther’s relationship to really see Jon’s transformation, instead it’s instant. As if listening to her for 30 seconds explain why she’s been crying the full film is enough?
I expect better next time, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.