Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Don John

I cannot quite figure out what’s really wrong with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, starring himself as the Casanova of the title, with a serious case of porn addiction. But, something’s wrong. I liked the film, but not that much. And, no, the film is not as depressing as it sounds. It’s not about porn-addiction.

The film aspires to be anti-romantic comedy comedy and along the way it falls into its own trap. Talking about sex and romance, and at the same time critiquing it, the film offers a regressive view on women themselves. In the film, women are either self-assured bitches or lost souls willing to love someone selflessly.

I liked JGL since I saw him in Gregg Araki’s wonderful ‘Mysterious Skin’. After he grew up, made his mainstream debut as a romantic lead in (500) Days of Summer. Since then he has rose to the heights of a Hollywood A-lister. He seems to be everywhere these days, from Inception, The Dark Knight Rises to Lincoln. In 2012, he wore prosthetics to look like Bruce Willis in the high-octane Looper.

So, I guess, after he decided to turn director, we had high expectations from him.

Don Jon (earlier the film was called Don Jon’s Addiction, which sounds more appropriate) begins well, with a young man’s experimentations with sex, which you know will turn into love once he meets the right girl. He meets the right girl immediately in the shape of Scarlett Johansson. They start dating. The she finds out about his addiction to pornography. He really loves it you know, looking at the screen and jerking off. In the beginning of the film, he even explains how porn is better than real sex. This time, he promises the right girl that he will stop looking at porn. She teaches him how to be a family man. But he just cannot stop. And, sadly, he doesn’t know what a browser history is, silly boy. She snoops around and finds out his secret. This time she is livid. She dumps him.

Now, you know the formula. The romantic lead must do whatever it takes to win the girl, and he will at the end.

Here, JGL decides to put a dampener on our expectations, which is a good thing. But you are not sure of the alternative he comes up with.

Don Jon takes the dumping in his strides, and decides that porn is anyway better than the real ones. At least they are not nagging, ambitious bitches, who wants you to do things you don’t want to do.

At this juncture then, Jon meets another woman, and older one, who bursts into tears with provocation (Julianne Moore), who will ultimately teach Jon how to fall in love with a woman, and how to make love to one.

I couldn’t help but think about D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers — a young man must learn about loving a woman from an older woman.

There were two sequences I really enjoyed. First, a fake movie that the couple goes to, starring Channing Tatum and Ann Hathaway, which looks awesome.

Seconds, how Jon’s father (played with bravado by Tony Danza) reacts after seeing Scarlett Johansson as his worthless son’s girlfriend. He asks his son if her boobs are real, and the look on Jon’s eyes, of finally getting approval from his father he longed for all these years. The scene reflects the movie’s collective unconsciousness about Scarlett Johansson. She is a sex object, from start to finish. The film accepts this in face value.

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