Perhaps you’ll look at the rating I give Don Jon and think it’s a bit excessive based on trailers alone (or, if you’ve finished watching it, perhaps the actual film). And I think you’d be right. There are elements about Don Jon that are very thinly veiled: The cinematography, for one. Also, a couple of characters are weirdly two-dimensional, and so are their motivations. At other times, the film is repetitive or increasingly blunt.
But there’s something to be said about a film that’s actually trying to say something. It’s not an easy feat to be such a marketable movie and yet try to send a message at the same time without feeling overtly laborious. A few months ago, I sat down to watch Disconnect beat me over the head with a technology is evil mantra over and over again. This is not that. This is enjoyable. Truly.
If nothing else, Don Jon deserves that rating for being such a personable and intimate film that can still be enjoyed (and deserves to be enjoyed) with a crowd.
Don Jon begins with a montage of examples of how objectification of women is all around us — from music videos to food ads. And then Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) explains to us what’s most important to him. Among his priorities is porn. It’s just better than sex, he tells us. In porn, you can lose yourself in fantasy; you can have every desire satisfied.
But that all changes when he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson). And I’ll stop there before I get too spoiler-y.
Ultimately, Don Jon, written and directed by leading man Gordon-Levitt, is a spiffy and daring satire about men who fantasize about women who will oblige sexually and women who fantasize about men who will put women on pedestals. (Actually, we get an amazing cameo by Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum playing leads in a fake movie titled Special Someone.) And what you might think is just a fleeting comedy is anything but. Not only does Don Jon comment on sex and power relationships, but also on revolving doors of penance, marriage and family, and grief. And it does it all while packing in the laughs and subverting romantic comedy tropes.
If there’s any place Don Jon fails, it’s that it over-simplifies sex to a fault. It can’t help but fall into the romanticization of sex that most Hollywood films eventually give in to. But it’s easier to say that the kind of sex Jon would enjoy is somehow incorrect than get into those complexities. It does indulge itself, however, in the complexities of marital issues by film’s end, even for a blip.
If you’re looking to enjoy yourself with a meaningful film, you can’t go wrong with Don Jon.