Sunday, September 29
REVIEW: Don Jon
Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
2013 Comedy Drama
1 hour 30 minutes
From Relativity Media
There are only a few things in life that are really important to him, he tells us early on. They are his family, friends, girls, his car, his apartment (he is a cleaning freak) and the church. Oh yes, there's one more thing... porn. He loves porn perhaps most of all. We see just the light from the computer screen shining on his sweaty body countless times. We see his eyes roll in the back of his head. We see numerous, frequent images (soft core) on the computer screen. We see the smile of serenity on his face at the end. We watch as the wastebasket fills up. This is a very happy dude.
If you're not happy reading this, if it gives you an uneasy feeling, let me recommend you not see this movie. Seriously. This might not even be a date movie and certainly not a first-date movie. Don't go with your mama either or your sister. If you're a guy, go with your buddies. If you go alone, sit with a raincoat over your lap. If you're a woman and want to know what is really going on with guys, here's the film for you. But the question is, ladies... can you handle the truth?
The movie would have us believe that all men watch porn. Maybe it's more honest to say all men enjoy porn. And if the lie here is the use of the word all, I would certainly agree but then let's agree it's almost all. If you're a man and have a computer, you've looked at porn at least once. And, if like our hero here, it's at least once a day! I'm just sayin'.
Here's the thing... this Saturday Night Fever kinda guy is totally addicted to porn and his frequency is not the only indicator. A better one is that he prefers it to a live and lively lass in his lair. I guess it's that old chestnut about not having to brush your teeth or say you love anyone. No need to take your hand to dinner. And unless you've got a serious case of the flu, there's never a bad performance.
Of course there's a rub. If someone didn't have a fit over him watching all this porn, there wouldn't be much of a movie, would there? So bring on the woman of his dreams, the most beautiful creature he has ever seen. She only asks for one thing, she says. Don't lie to her. When after a tumble she discovers him quickly looking at porn, she goes nuts. She could never be with that kind of a guy. (At that point I might have suggested a nunnery.) We have our own discovery... lying isn't her only bugaboo; porn causes her skin to crawl, too. So what does he do? He lies to her, saying it was a fluke. Later on, however, when she is waiting for him at his apartment, she goes on his computer (really now, what woman would do that?!?!), checks out his browser history (here's a heads-up, public service announcement for all the dudes) and discovers he's been lying all along (men lie? what is this, a fantasy?). That's all the plot you're getting from me but rest assured, those of you planning to see this film, it's a fun ride right to the end.
Gordon-Levitt not only made his directorial debut, he also wrote the script and there are some bold words indeed. I am not talking of the fact that virtually every character drops the f-bomb, but it's Gordon-Levitt's use of the English language that could have a few patrons asking for their money back. I would like to hope not, but I would not be surprised. What is said, crisp and raw and funny as it could be, is exactly right for the proceedings at hand but is likely to be a little too bold, graphic and personal for some tastes.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of porn-watching couldn't have become a movie theme at a more opportune time. What did surprise and delight me is that it was discussed so honestly, so straight-forwardly. Where did that come from? No backtracking, no copping out, no giving in to the other side of the argument. This character loves his porn. Sure there is the female lead with her opinion but it serves more as a tennis match between the two with him destined to win the point. He doesn't care whether he is addicted or not or whether he likes it more than the real thing or whether he goes blind. He stands up (if you will) as the pro-voice for porn and its many attributes. (That's not me saying so. He said so. I'm just learning here.)
I didn't want to see this film simply because of its subject matter and I generally stay away from comedies because they're so lame but I am so smitten with the leads... three of my top favorite American actors. I went to see Don Jon because of them and I was not at all disappointed.
I was, nonetheless, leery when an actor (any actor) is making his directorial debut. They're not always so successful that first time out and double that if they are also the writer and redouble if they star in it. But as writer-director-star, Gordon-Levitt succeeded on all fronts. It was a bravura job. And the actor has also never looked better. With all that he had to do to get this thing moving, he obviously didn't miss any time at the gym.
The only time I ever entertain even a whisper of a thought of being straight is when I am looking at Scarlett Johansson. Gordon-Levitt has said that when he wrote the part of Barbara, he had the actress in mind all the while and was excited when she signed on. And really now... if you needed a beautiful, sexy woman to lure a man away from his computer, wouldn't you think of Johansson, every inch the glamorous movie queen? And she can act.
Julianne Moore adds prestige to any production she's involved in and this is no exception. She plays a fellow night school student of Gordon-Levitt's and offers a loving voice of reason to the story. I have had a number of female friends like this character so I was drawn to her immediately. (But why did he name her Esther?)
I don't think I have ever seen Tony Danza in a film but I need to single him out for a little praise as well. All his scenes are done around a dinner table. He and Gordon-Levitt worked together many years ago so it's no wonder he was picked to play a New Jersey Italian who sits at the dinner table in a white undershirt, hair pomaded back, cussing up a storm. The son looks and dresses exactly like him. I kinda cracked up just seeing their scenes and chemistry. Sheer casting perfection. Glenne Headley was also a total delight as the mother.
Is there still a Catholic League of Decency (isn't that what it was called)? Well, they could certainly object to this film. I suspect they haven't loosened up on self-abuse and porn-watching must also be a no-no, but their issue is likely to be the fun poked at them especially regarding confession. We'll see.
I thought of this film as being an original with respect to its treatment of the subject matter. Some of the characters are cookie-cutter varieties from all comedies (friends, families), but they spoke volumes of truth to me here.
Did you know that of all the things one can do on a computer, porn is number one? I have seen documentaries on the horrors of porn. I have listened to people lie about watching it, especially as much as they do. But I had not seen a film that addressed the subject such as it was done here. It's time for some thoughtful discourse and blend in some delightful humor to keep things from getting too sticky.
Let's face it, there are really only three things you can count on in life... you have to pay taxes, you will die one day and online porn is here to stay.
Favorite Film #7