Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Running Time: 90 mins
Don Jon is an American film about a man who, having developed unrealistic expectations of sex from watching pornography, attempts to find happiness and fulfilment with the woman he believes to be his true love.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt absolutely knocks it out of the park with his directorial debut in Don Jon, a funny, charismatic, insightful and engrossing film with a unique and very relevant perspective on the realities of love, sex and relationships in the modern world. With a group of excellent performances on top, the film is a captivating and enjoyable watch, and far more than the laddish flex that it cleverly pretends to be.
On the face of things (and particularly in the opening ten minutes), Don Jon looks like the worst of all films. Brash, laddish and boastful, the film opens with the seemingly glorious life of a man and his friends as they spend their nights with the most beautiful women in town, and spend their days sitting in front of their computers watching porn.
Now, fortunately, anyone with even a modicum of intelligence knows that that’s not the perfect life, and thankfully this film does too. Because, as brash and lavish as Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his friends’ lives may seem, Don Jon is a film that drills down into the realities of their worldviews and activities in fascinating fashion, opening up a riveting and surprising perspective on why this sort of person is so seemingly common in the modern world.
Focusing on the unrealistic expectations of sex gained from watching adult films, as well as looking at the objectification of women among many men, and the inefficacy of social institutions and to put a stop to it, Don Jon is an enthralling and deeply intelligent film, opening up a whole can of worms with a multi-faceted look at the nature of laddishness in society.
Through a close and intimate focus on the seemingly perfect life of a player on the scene, the film creates fascinating and enthralling character development, seeing Jon go from player to a perfect relationship, only to realise that the ‘perfect’ reality he seeks may be entirely unattainable.
It’s a fascinating theme that plays brilliantly through the film, but what’s even better about Don Jon is that it’s not a one-track pony, because along with criticising the unrealistic expectations of the world of a man who watches so much pornography, it looks at the flipside, the unrealistic expectations of a woman so engrossed in the supposedly ‘perfect true love’ she sees in films and stories every day.
Scarlett Johansson, who brilliantly plays Jon’s new girlfriend, brings that side of the debate to the fore just as well, helping Don Jon to offer up a fascinating and most impressively well-balanced look at how the nature of love, sex and relationships are being changed by unrealistic expectations on both sides of the gender divide.
As a result, with so much thematic depth to follow, the film is a fascinating watch throughout, building up to an impressively reflective and even moving final act that sees Jon take a powerful look at why he is the way he is, and what awaits him if he stays the same.
All of that shows just how engrossing Don Jon is as a story, but not only does it impress in the dramatic department, because it’s also a film with fantastic charisma and great humour throughout.
Whether it be through Gordon-Levitt’s energetic directing, or simply a screenplay that’s full of ideas and entertaining characters, Don Jon will have you laughing just as much as it will have you thinking, and along with brilliant pacing that has the film moving with such energy throughout, it turns what could be construed as a very serious and dour look at the realities of the modern world into a hugely entertaining watch.
Overall, I really liked Don Jon. Engaging, insightful, unique and well-balanced, the film takes a riveting look at the changing nature of love, sex and relationships in the modern world, and along with great dramatic depth, it impresses with brilliant humour and energy throughout, which is why I’m giving it a 7.6.