Come for the Porn, Stay for the Porn

20130920-003609.jpg20130920-004133.jpgBy Ramia Adaeze

Joseph Gordan-Levitt’s directorial debut “Don Jon,” glosses over the finer points of the “porn epidemic” to deliver a low brow comedy with high brow aspirations about the dangers of sexual fantasy.

Jon Martello (Joesph Gordan-Levitt) is a charmingly sleazy modern day Don Juan exalted by his equally repugnant Jersey-type friends with his ability to “pull dimes” night after night. Despite his demonstrated sexual prowess with 10s, he still indulges in hardcore porn upwards to 20 times a week, articulating the distinction between “real pussy” and “porn pussy,” as he can lose himself in the latter and not the former. It takes him a while to realize how sad that is.

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Until then, Don’s addiction is played for laughs, in a series of montages displaying graphic snatch-smashing pornographic clips and generalities about the differences between male and female sexuality.

At my particular screening it was hard to tell if the audience was laughing at him or with him; the sexual musings Don spews out were so familiar in a Me-Jane-You-Tarzan sort of way, that I almost felt bad for the Don Juans and Dona Juanas off-screen that might have taken them too seriously.

After establishing Don’s dissatisfaction towards never enjoying a real-life money shot, the film presents his match, the self-assured sexpot Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), a woman wrapped up in her own unrealistic, albeit rom-com based fantasies.

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After some brief Facebook-stalking and cutesy dates, the couple establishes a familiar dynamic among the shallow and one-dimensional: Jon wants sex, Barbara wants financial security, Barbara uses sex to push Jon into financial security, Jon (eventually) gets sex.

Alas, even ScarJo’s pussy is not paved with enough gold to distract Jon from his porn habits, resulting in him keeping his on-the-side relationship with his computer a secret from his new girlfriend. This, unsurprisingly, ends badly.

One of Barbara’s schemes results in Jon taking a night class where he meets the older, eccentric, mysteriously sad Esther (Julianne Moore), who initiates a friendship that Jon only half-heartedly returns due to her not-boneable status. As Don’s porn addiction detracts more from his daily life, he retreats more into Esther’s life, wisdom and –spoiler-alert! — pussy.

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The bare-bones argument of sex + emotional connection = better sex! isn’t exactly compelling, but JGL eases the audience into the later, more “artistic” sections well enough with his script and directing that you forget that 45 mins ago you were laughing at a “girls don’t like to give BJs” joke.

“Don Jon’s” treatment of porn addiction and porn is as casual as the numerous sex scenes it portrays. The stakes are never that high, the pitfalls are never that low. If you want to watch a movie about a guy who is actually wrecked by his addictions watch “Shame.” If you want to watch a movie about a guy who gets over his problems through loooooove interspersed with a lot of gratuitous pornography, watch “Don Jon.”

The movie is overwhelmingly a light hearted comedy first, a meditation on addiction and the nature of love, second. That is not to detract from the quality of “Don Jon,” it is more than enjoyable for the artsy-bros that I assume it is being marketed to — all the comedic marks hit where they are suppose to.

It just tries to resolve its conflict on a tone very detached from the rest of the film, so moviegoers may laugh when the film wants you to melt.

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Some of JGL’s choices are a bit questionable, for example at one point to highlight that ScarJo has very nice tits, they literally glow, but generally speaking his directing is harmless if not fun.

JGL is a remarkably deft writer able to portray seemingly shallow archetypal characters with a decent amount of depth and complexity, which, beyond the easy comedy and chemistry between the actors, is the greatest strength of the film. But also Tony Danza and Glenne Headly play Jon’s very Italian parents who respectively bitch about his lack of manliness and grandchildren…

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“Don Jon” may try too hard to get deep on its audience but it does, at least, get pretty deep into a lot of vaginas, which is honestly why you are going to go see it.

 

Ramia Adaeze is a feminist, who tweets @RamiaAdaeze

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