'Don Jon' Review - Jerking Off to Real Love

Updated on April 24, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

Jon Martello, Jr. (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young Italian-American Jersey resident whose simple life consists of keeping fit, getting dinner with his family, keeping his apartment and car tidy, going out with his friends, and fucking women who are above an eight in his personal ranking. He ends each week confessing his sins in his local church, so he can start the cycle fresh again.

Jon has an unusual feature, though. While he has great success with women, Jon confesses, breaking the fourth wall in a voiceover, that real sex doesn't give him as much pleasure as his masturbation sessions with pornography. Jon cites some reasons to prefer pornography like the beauty of women, the creative pornstar bed capabilities, and the fact that he doesn't have to give oral sex.

But in general, it's clear that for Jon, sex is something mechanical and sporty, rather than a sensorial experience. The only reason he really prefers pornography is that he can get lost and forget everything, whereas with a real woman, he just can't make that connection.

Don Jon, more than being about pornography addiction, is a strange but compelling story about toxic masculinity. Jon's dad, played by Tony Danza, has established as the family's pivotal love story that the first time he saw his future wife Angela (Glenne Headly), he declared "she's mine". Mine! That's Jon's blueprint on relationships.

Jon's masculinity is incredibly fragile. If the pornographic clip he is watching shows the man's face just when he is ejaculating, he screams in agony. Nobody is watching, but Jon is somehow still ashamed for that. He cringes every time the face of the porn actor invades his fantasy.

Almost like a test of destiny, Jon knows his physically perfect woman. Barbara AKA Scarlett Johansson with a New York Jewish accent is a perfect 10, and Jon has managed to get her attention. Barbara even makes him work for that first sexual encounter and keeps him away from his promiscuous nightlife. Jon, he says, has felt in love for the first time in his life.

Parallel to his relationship with Barbara, Jon knows a more mature woman named Esther (Julianne Moore), which at first he obviously discards by her advanced age and because she also seemed to have no filter or taboo when they communicate, which unnerves him. The first time he sees her, Esther is crying inconsolably at the entrance of a building, provoking in Jon a reaction of rejection, almost absolute disgust. That's how disconnected Jon is from emotions.

If Jon is a superficial macho with a thin ego, Barbara, even being a woman, is even worse. She, for example, is disgusted and shocked by the revelation that Jon likes to clean his apartment. According to Barbara, that minimizes him. She insists that there are "women who are paid for that". According to Barbara, a man who loves a woman has to protect her and fulfill all her whims.

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That's why when Barbara discovers that Jon masturbates compulsively (when checking the browser history of his computer), she doesn't hesitate to leave him immediately. For Barbara, masturbation with pornography is undoubtedly a kind of infidelity. And Jon surely masturbates several times a day.

Jon then decides to let himself be carried away by his impulses and begins to explore his relationship with Esther. The woman, who lost her husband and son in a traffic accident 14 months ago, is an absolute revelation for him about what it means to have sex.

And that's where Don Jon becomes really interesting and gets the reason to be watched. Don Jon ends up being a great story about obsessive individualism and selfishness in relationships.

Of course, the great paradox of Don Jon is that is a film focused on the dangers of his main character's obsessive masturbation, but at the same time displays a gigantic artistic masturbatory attitude of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt produces, directs and stars. He is shown as a stallion with a heart of gold and slaps Scarlett Johansson's ass. It's a too tailor-made project by Gordon-Levitt for Gordon-Levitt that achieve to improve his physical image and presence, while having just enough range for audiences to accept his performance as artistic.

Because if there's something Joseph Gordon-Levitt achieves with Don Jon, is to finally be cast as the main womanizer lead character. Always playing the sensitive child, adolescent, and young adult, Gordon-Levitt had to do everything else behind the camera to be able to demonstrate that he could also be a hypersexual, shallow, muscular man.

Don Jon, if you will, is a more fun and shallow version of Shame. One that starts as a comedy and slowly acquires seriousness and heart. And although the addiction is treated rather naively, its positive message is worth it. Don Jon deserves a spot on my addiction movies list.

Movie Details

Title: Don Jon

Release Year: 2013

Director(s): Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore a.o.

4 stars for Don Jon


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