Don Jon Blu-ray Review: How Porn is Better Than Scarlett Johansson

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts to deal with how fantasy worlds collide with our real ones, causing untold problems and unhappiness.
  |   Comments

Our entertainment culture creates fantasy worlds that can never live up to reality.  Pornography brings us beautiful women with perfect bodies who are willing to satisfy our every sexual urge - no matter how perverse or degrading - with no strings attached.  They don’t ask you to pick up the check, do the laundry, or even cuddle afterwards.  Similarly, Hollywood creates romantic movies in which opposites always attract, everybody changes for the betters and the endings are always happy.

In Don Jon, writer, actor, and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts to deal with how these fantasy worlds collide with our real ones, causing untold problems and unhappiness.  He stars as the title character, so nick-named because of his ability to score with the ladies much like the fabled libertine.  His life consists of dinner with the family, daily work-out routines, working at the bar, attending weekly mass, taking home an endless parade of women, and watching pornography on his computer.

He loves porn so much that he actually prefers it to being with a live human being.  Though he has plenty of real sex, it can never live up to the images and videos he encounters on the screen.  In fact, he often lies in bed impatiently after intercourse waiting for his date to drift off to sleep so that he can slip out and masturbate to more pornography.

Eventually he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) who scores a perfect 10 in his ratings book, but turns down his advances.  This only turns him on more and he pursues her with the relentlessness of a shark on the hunt.  Slowly, she succumbs, but only after she’s met his friends, his family convinces him to take night classes in order to get a better job, and she teases him relentlessly night after night.  Once they do sleep together, Jon is again disappointed because even the most beautiful girl he’s ever laid eyes on can’t compare sexually to all those videos he’s played over and over and over again.

One night she catches him watching one of those videos and she gives him an ultimatum - it's either her or the porn.  He promises to stop watching, but his addiction won’t let him and sooner than later he’s sneaking around watching naked things on his phone in his car, in class, and anytime she’s not around.

Barbara has her own addictions though, she loves romantic comedies.  The movie draws a pretty straight line between the impossible fantasies that pornography creates and the equally unrealistic ones that come from rom-coms.  These fictional worlds, it seems to be saying, are destroying any ability we have to connect in any meaningful way with each other.

It doesn’t stop there with its philosophizing.  It has more to say about our relationships to our parents, how our insatiable desire to be constantly connected to devices keeps us disconnected to reality, and how religion can be used as an eraser to ease our conscience without enacting any real change.  It asks a lot of big questions, but unfortunately its answers never move past the trite and cliche.

In, perhaps, the film's most powerful scene, Jon goes to his weekly confessional, but instead of detailing his sexual exploits and pornographic conquests to the priests, he proudly announces that he has not once the previous week looked at porn and though he did have sex outside of marriage this time it was more intimate and thus more meaningful than anything he’s ever done in his life.  The priest, however, sounds as bored as ever and gives him the same penance as usual.  Jon, confused, pleads with the priest to explain why his penance is the same though the sin has changed. The priest simply mumbles something about faith and shuts him out.  For once Jon is making changes in his life for the better, but the absolution he used to take such satisfaction in, can no longer come from the Church.

In what seems a bit tacked on, absolution comes in the form of an older woman.  Esther (Julianne Moore) is the worldly, wise, older lady in his night class that at first seems a bit daft but slowly teaches Jon that love is more than just words and sex more than kinky orgasms.  The two have some nice scenes together, but ultimately her purpose becomes nothing more than the cliches the movie seems to be satirizing.

The Blu-ray looks and sounds great. Colors snap and blacks are good and dark.  The soundtrack is bold but never overcomes the dialog.  Extras include several features on the making of the movie and Gordon-Levitt's experience as writer, director, and actor.

Follow Us