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With successful credentials such as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Inception’, Joseph Gordon Levitt can easily be forgiven for not abandoning his blockbusting cinematic theatrics. But this amusing if lightweight jaunt into romantic comedy territory just might be the career rejuvenation that he might have been looking for.
He plays a barman and part time student called ‘Don’ (an all too flattering nickname billed by listless friends), whose zealous grasp on online titillation sets him apart from the archetypal thirty something ‘player’. Indeed the first segment of the movie opens up to a barrage of stylish shots of female cleavage and with Lewitt, his face screwed up like a constipated camel, whilst he is bathed in the luminescent light from his computer. He then utters in a heavy New York accent: “There’s only a few things I really care about in life: My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn.”
The quote and the entire sequence may be mistaken for a crude joke but that is, in fact,the movie’s caustic Raison d’être of the film as his porn addiction is an unconventional angle to probe the psyche of ‘Don’. Basically his unrelenting internet ‘self-gratification’ is the ultimate escape for his disconnection for the constrictions of modern relationships. Consequently it becomes disquieting for his character when his escapism into sodomy starts to the effect the relationship with voluptuous but vapid Barbara Sugarman (played by Scarlett Johansson).
Her love for conventional romantic films (one in which romantic comedy heavyweights Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway make a cameo), rather than being practical about their relationship, echoes Don’s sexual indifference to the relationship in question. However her characters confused perception of fantasy and refusal to address the likening of her need for escapism to Don’s porn addiction, only deepens the miscommunication of the movie’s protagonists; a problem compounded by the fact that both Levitt and Johansson have little in the way of any heated chemistry.
Don’s relationship with flaming red head, Esther (played by Julianne Moore) has, as intended, more emotional resonance than the intellectually hollow Sugarman. Rather than show an aversion to Don’s ‘hobby’, she embraces it by giving him a seedy film as a present. Esther’s middle aged intellect is another dimension to Don’s problem. In a pivotal scene, she sits besides him on a couch– her crow’s feet and lines around her lips becoming evident– where she beguiles everyone with the movie’s simplistic thesis about the lack of emotional intimacy resulting in the escapism into sexual over indulgence. But it is a shame that again, the actor’s relationship is not allowed to flourish in the way of the deep chemistry seen in classic romantic comedies. Moore is 20 years Levitt’s senior and the movie very ill-advisedly throws in a very poignant but redundant twist with regards to her character.
As from a directorial perspective Lewitt’s stylised directional flourishes imbues pizzazz into the conventional romantic framework the movie has, despite its controversial subject area. His choppy transitions work well in probing Don in the various stages of his life: Don’s life with his wacky parents; his confessions in church; his extensive and gruelling work outs; his unrelenting swearing; his sex sessions in front of a computer. But some of the material is marred by unattractive cinematography, as Levitt’s lighting team to darken the lightening to affect the mood – something that is so obvious, at times it is laughable.
Stylish, sexy, sublime, ‘Don Jon’ is the basic answer to the supposed redundancy of modern relationships in the face of lifelike interaction of the sex industry. But more often than not, it is a true testament to the human condition that escapes into fantasy when emotional connection is slight and reality becomes tedious.
Don Jon is a 2013 American romantic comedy film written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Produced by Ram Bergman and Nicolas Chartier, the film stars Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore, with Rob Brown, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson and Tony Danza in supporting roles. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013 and had its wide release in the United States on September 27, 2013.[3