Don Jon

Shame goes Jersey Shore: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is addicted to porn

Don Jon

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Written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Italia Ricci, Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Anne Hathaway, Sloane Avery.

Weren’t we all clamoring for a lightly comedic version of Shame set amongst the cast of Jersey Shore? Don Jon represents an unusual choice of material for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, making his feature-length writing and directing debut here – and it doesn’t always pay off as intended – but the writer-director-star is coming from a place he knows, lending the film a heartfelt authenticity. 

Don’t let the light-hearted tone fool you: Don Jon tackles an important subject that few other films dare to broach: pornography addiction. Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt) cares about his family, his religion, his body, his pad, his ride, his bros, and his girls, but there’s one thing he values above all else: the time he spends alone in front of his laptop with one hand on the keyboard. He’s able to lose himself in internet pornography in a way he cannot achieve with any living person.

Don Jon isn’t exactly subtle when it comes to its subject matter (the film was edited down to avoid an NC-17 rating in the states), but it’s at its best when detailing the specifics of Jon’s life and his addiction. Through voiceover narration, Jon goes over the specifics of his routine in a surprisingly frank manner; the startup sound his laptop makes is enough to turn him on. 

Oblivious to Jon’s private life – but probably sharing a good deal in common with it – are Jersey friends played by Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke. They join Jon for late-night club conquests; during one, he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson, employing a thick Joisey twang), and falls head over heels for her. But there’s one part of his life that he cannot share. 

Another woman comes into Jon’s life in the form of Esther (Julianne Moore), a night school classmate Jon initially wants nothing to with but eventually finds solace in. He’s able to open up to her in a way that seems completely foreign: his expectations of women don’t include the emotional support that she’s able to offer. 

The other women in Jon’s life are mom (Glenne Headly), who wants Jon to settle down and give her some grandchildren, and sis (Brie Larson), silent throughout the whole film, so you know when she finally says something it’ll be important. In a bit of creative casting, Tony Danza steals the show as Jon’s father: he’s a perfect match for this polished Jersey setting.

While Don Jon is specifically about internet pornography, the brilliance of the setting is that everything about Jon’s world is pornographic. One parallel is made when Jon watches a TV advertisement that uses sex to sell a product: the salacious tone and technique of the advertising differs from pornography only in what it’s selling. 

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But beyond that, everything about Jon’s Jersey Shore existence is taken to pornographic excess: the sculpted body, the pristine flat, the hot-waxed car, the girls in the clubs: everything in this world is objectified and treated in an aggressively over-sexualized manner. It’s no wonder Jon can’t find true bliss with any real woman; every element of his life points towards ideals that he can only in porn. 

Also opening this week: 

  • Turbo (showtimes | IMDb), an animated family film from DreamWorks Animation. It’s screening in a Czech-dubbed version in Prague cinemas, but you can catch it in English at Cinema City Slovanský dům.
  • Tanec mezi střepinami (showtimes), a Slovak drama from director Marek Ťapák. Screening in Slovak.

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