The best thing, worst thing, and main thing about Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut “Don Jon” in about the time it takes to watch the trailer.
TEXT OF VIDEO REVIEW:
Fair warning, lots of sex talk about to commence.
“Don Jon” is the directorial debut of Mr. Joseph Gordon Levitt, as he stars in a movie he wrote about Don Jon, a young New Jersey man addicted to porn and navigating the world of relationships and sex in a culture that isn’t quite sure what’s real and fake about either. Alright, let’s get this out of the way first, this movie is about pornography and the way sexually charged and even explicit material dominates our culture. As such the movie itself frankly plays in that space. In both conversation and images this movie is explicitly raw and about sex. Let’s just say it’s not one you are probably going to want to take mom too, and in fact, one that you may find yourself uncomfortable in as well. The movie does find a way to stay in R rated territory, but pushes that limit about as far as I can remember it being pushed… and yet… there’s something really important being said here.
Even as the movie skirts those lines it’s making an incredible point about exactly how shallow and selfish pornography is and not only that but how it perverts the true beauty and depth of an honest sexual experience in a committed relationship. And it doesn’t let women off the hook either. The movie broadens the message to the fantasy life of many women who view movie romances as ideal, even though they are just as fake as the online porn at the other end of the spectrum. It’s pretty remarkable stuff. And it works even more simply because this is a really well made film. Joseph Gordon Levitt and Scarlett Johansson are wonderful in their roles and JGL finds a real touch for pulling off a funny and entertaining tone that is a heightened reality but never feels like you can’t buy into it being a real world. The movie never drags, and it finds it’s way through its plot with confidence and gusto, a real feat especially for his first time directing. But the best thing about Don Jon is the nuance. Whether its the subtle scenes of Don Jon just not quite being able to clean things to his satisfaction, or the way every character has their own fake world they buy into, it’s a light touch that serves the theme and overall experience of the movie very well.
And the worst thing? Probably the already mentioned explicitness. I mean, I’m pretty sure I understand why Gordon Levitt felt it necessary, but I think the movie could have made it’s point with a little bit less of the skin and the sin.
Overall “Don Jon” is an expertly made film that is funny, clever, and lands and incredibly powerful message about the vapidness of porn and our search for genuine relationships and sexual experience. Even with the sexually raw material I’d give it a cautionary B.
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