15 feb. 2014

My Review: Don Jon (7/10)

"For these, and all the sins in my life, I am sorry."

I found Don Jon to be a solid feature debut from Joseph Gordon Levitt as a director who also starred in and wrote the original screenplay for this raunchy romantic comedy. He's a very talented actor, but here he gets to prove his skills as a director and a writer as well. This isn't your typical rom-com and it will probably make you feel uncomfortable from the start because it is not a family film. The writing may have some flaws and at times you may feel like JGL is hammering his message way too much, but I thought he was going for a similar style that Scorsese went for in The Wolf of Wall Street in which several excesses were repeated over and over again to make a point. I found it rather funny that despite how much the message was hammered many people still didn't get the point of the film which was much more than pointing out that pornography is a dangerous addiction that affects relationships. Yes, that is one of the messages behind this film which shows hoy pornography can affect intimacy in a relationship by turning sex into something unilateral. It's about what I can receive from a relationship instead of losing oneself in the other and actually experimenting what love really means. But the film explores much more than pointing out the dangers of pornography addiction. It also is about how disconnected we've become as a society. JGL's character is disconnected due to his addiction, his girlfriend believes love is all about the other person giving up everything for her (which is something she's learned from the rom-coms she eats up almost on a daily basis), which also turns her into someone who is looking for love in a unilateral form, his father is obsessed with sports and if his son isn't interested he doesn't consider him to be a real man, his mother is desperate for him to find a girl so she can be a grandmother, and his sister is completely disconnected and spends almost the entire film speechless on her cellphone. But despite how dysfunctional everyone is in this family, somehow the only person that really sees that Jon's relationship isn't a solid one is his sister who notices what everyone else doesn't see about Jon's girlfriends. By doing this I felt that JGL was pointing out that even that person that seems more disconnected than the rest of society might surprise us. We tend to see the problems in others, but we rarely look at our own defects. Don Jon may hammer its message, but it is not just about Jon's addiction with pornography, there is much more to it.

The story centers on - and is narrated by - Jon (Joseph Gordon Levitt), better known to his friends as Don Jon for his ability to conquer women. In his voice over narration he tells us that the only things he cares about in life are his body, his pad, his ride, his car, his family which includes his father Jon Sr. (Tony Danza), his mother Angela (Glenne Neadly) and his sister Monica (Brie Larson), his church, his boys Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke), his girls, and his porn. He spends a great deal of his time on these things, he visits his family frequently, he works out in the gym daily, he spends time at the club with his boys looking for women and rating them on the 10 point scale, he goes to church every week and confesses his sins to the priest, and most of all he watches porn and loses himself in it. He confesses that he enjoys it even more than actual sex, but he has evidently developed unrealistic expectations from it. One night at the club, he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) and completely falls in love with her, but he continues to struggle finding true intimacy with her and building a strong relationship. Along the way he meets a fellow student named Esther (Julianne Moore) who sort of opens his eyes about love and relationships.

Despite the fact that Shame explored a similar theme recently, it's a subject we rarely see in films. Don Jon is a real exploration of modern relationships and how they've been affected from the way media and films sell sex everywhere. We are bombarded with sexual images in the media all the time creating one sided expectations about love and sex and the film opens by presenting several of these images sort of setting the tone for the rest of the movie. JGL plays a very different role from what we are used to seeing him in and he also worked out a lot for it. HIs character follows a certain routine in life, and the film makes sure it repeats this to get the point across. There are a lot of interesting points this film raises and it really is a comedy with a strong message about how disconnected we've become. The performances in this film were all solid.


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