When it was announced that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut would be about sex addiction, a million teenage girls (and boys) fainted from excitement. What no one expected (myself included) was that this would be an outstanding show of talent and a serious awards contender.
After Steve McQueen’s Bafta-winning drama Shame came out last year, and was swiftly followed by rehab rom-com Thanks for Sharing, sex addiction became a hot topic. All of a sudden, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Fassbender were all sex addicts, and the taboo was lifted. Don Jon can add itself to that list, managing to raise a set of important questions about the availability and long-term effects of watching porn, but in a funny and kitsch way that will appeal to a mass audience.
The polar opposite to real-life Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon is at first shown as a character of ridicule. He tells us he only cares about a few things in life; his body (he works out while watching himself in the mirror), his pad (he cleans it meticulously), his ride, his family, church, girls, and porn. A LOT of porn. Although his friends call him the ‘don’ of bedding chicks (7s or 8s every weekend), nothing gives him a release like porn, and he watches it several times a day.
Dissatisfied by real women, Jon embarks on a journey to find better sex. When Scarlett Johansson walks into his life, he has met his match. She’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen and he’s determined to get her into bed. But he soon learns that she has other things on her mind. Jon starts out as a misogynist, but gradually learns the value of mutual affection and real love.
As he says, all men watch porn. But Jon doesn’t realise he’s addicted. He’s watched videos everyday since he was a teenager and doesn’t know sex any other way. Gordon-Levitt highlights an important cultural problem: how do you teach young people about sex when they have porn readily available on the Internet? Jon makes an example of the fact that it is all too easy for people to lose sight of reality when watching porn and take on unrealistic expectations of their partners.
Jon is a character that a lot of people will be able to relate to, even if they are laughing at him at the same time. This is a comedy before anything else, and a lot of people will view it as that. But it is also a very well made film, with some excellent sound editing and stylish detail.
There are some great cameos that pop up from Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum, as well as Julianne Moore who plays a dope-smoking student, in mourning for her husband and son and Brie Larson (21 Jump Street) who is fantastic in a small part as Jon’s sister.
Don Jon is a mainstream film with mass appeal, but also has an important underlying message. Tony Danza, who plays Jon’s dad in the film, said that he would compare Don Jon to an update of Saturday Night Fever, saying “it’s a moment in our time, in our culture and it gives us insight into what’s going on.” He added: “If there are any messages, they go down a lot easier because there’s a little sugar with the medicine.”