Editors Note: this review may provide information about the just released movie Don Jon and may contain spoilers. Additionally the movie is rated R for a reason, there is strong language and subject matter (sex and porn) guaranteed to discomfort even the strongest stomach.
Earlier this summer a friend (code name: the professor) was complaining about taking a group to a movie he loved only to have people leave the theater complaining about his choice. A similar thing happened to me this afternoon. I was thrilled to get a chance to hit up Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon, on its opening weekend. Since I work most weekends this is a rarity for me. Leaving the theater I watched a couple of bros making the kinda face you make when you see a snake and griping “that wasn’t very good was it.” The group was thoroughly nonplussed (though they [probably don’t even know what that word means). Yes going to movie just because it has a good looking actress is not a great move bro-wise.Yet if my experience counts, I have to say that more audiences will walk out with feelings of disgust and annoyance. And that is a good thing.
Don Jon is a movie that is designed to confront and attack our sensibilities. The film centers around Don (played perfectly by JGL- he takes a character who could be hard to like and makes him three-dimensional, lived, and loved), a porn addicted Jersey Shore wannabe, and Barbara, a not-wise-as-she-thinks Rom-com addicted Jersey gal. Don is upfront with everyone (from his peers to his priest) about his love of porn. He just loves porn better than anything; even sex with real live human beings. Then he meets his krpytonite in the form of Jersey bombshell and dime (i.e. perfect 10) Barbara. Since a series of one-night stands have not quenched his desire for perfect sex, he decides that perhaps a relationship will be just the ticket. The problem is not as hooked as Don is on porn, his choice of gal friday is just as hooked on another sex-flavored treat, the rom-com. If Don’s use of porn has destroyed his chances of sexual bliss; then Barbara’s emotionally skewed view of love may doom her chances at true love. I’ll let you catch the flick to see what happens, and how this Gordian knot is to be split or tied (as Don’s put-upon Mom hopes will happen).
What is amazing about this film is how it humbly and brazenly pulls back the curtain on romance and sex, 21st century America style. The problem for both characters comes from the same malfunction; an inability to connect, or even see the humanity in each other. Don’s love of porn has taught him to see women simply as a laundry list of body parts (face/tits/a**/p***y – his words not mine) to be categorized, and rated. Furthermore the only purpose he can think for this strange combination of body parts is the satisfaction of his desires. Meanwhile Barbara’s love of romantic comedies has similarly warped her views on masculinity as view. In her view the purpose of a man is to bend to her every whim, give her everything she wants, and to help her maintain the appropriate social standing. Don is upset that Barbara can’t allow him to lose himself to sex; while Barbara is peeved that Don is unwilling to give everything up to show his love for her.
If the purpose of porn is to create woman in the image of man; it might be argued that the traditional rom-com is designed to make man in the image of women. Both excite their audiences by using their story-telling alchemy to show us how the world would function if men were women and women were men. The point of love then becomes the changing of the other into a version of one’s self (but with opposing pieces that can be rubbed together for warmth and stuff). Here two attempt to become one by changing the other into themself; thus creating two individuals acting as one.
This is exact opposite of God’s creation ordinance regarding sex, procreation, and coupling. There He says, “therefore let a man leave his mother and father, to join with a woman; and the two will become one.” Here two separate but equal components come together to form one entirely new entity. Both parties retain their uniqueness; yet a unity of love allows them to act in accord with one another.
Here is the lesson that Don learns, and Barbara seems not to learn. Here is the lesson that all of us need to learn.