News Column

Movie review: 'Don Jon' is an honest film worth seeing

October 16, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 16--Moviegoers who see the new film "Don Jon" better be prepared for a frank, blunt, open-and-honest discussion about sexuality. While the subject matter might make some people uncomfortably squirm in their movie theater seats, the dialogue is so fresh and engaging that I became totally absorbed in this film.

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is of Italian ancestry, living in New Jersey. He hooks up with a different woman almost every week, and he thinks nothing of casual sex with countless women. He has high standards, though -- he only goes for women he considers an "8" or higher on a scale to 10.

However, sex with a real living, breathing woman just isn't enough for him. Jon prefers his online porn, which he will sneak off and watch while his date is sleeping soundly in his bed. Jon likes the way the porn stars moan, and are uninhibited in trying sexual positions, and are willing to perform sex acts. The real women in Jon's life are just too vanilla and satisfied with ordinary sex, and are just not willing to do these things with him.

Jon's life changes when he sees a "perfect dime," a girl who is a 10-out-of-10, at the bar. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson.) They have great date-movie chemistry. Barbara loves date-night movies in which the couple meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. She has some pretty unrealistic, uncompromising beliefs about how couples work as well.

Unlike most of the women in Jon's life, Barbara doesn't immediately sleep with him, which of course, only increases his desire for her. Barbara does inspire Jon to be a better man though -- she gets him enrolled in a night class and convinces him he should aspire to be more than a bartender. Jon, in turn, begins dating her exclusively, but he still struggles with his desire to watch porn.

This movie deals with male sexuality so openly that it led to a lot of nervous laughter in my theater. Jon is very specific in what he likes, and he isn't afraid to describe it.

A decade ago, the adult comedy "Chasing Amy" dealt with a man's inability to look past his girlfriend's sexual history -- he was jealous of her background and sexual conquests before he entered her life -- and it ruined their relationship. I consider that film a must-watch for every young man between the ages of 20 and 25. I am going to put "Don Jon" in an elite category with "Chasing Amy" as a film that young men absolutely must see. Jon cannot see the difference between passionate love-making and carnal sex, and that has ruined relationship after relationship.

This movie is a comedy, though. Jon's parents are stereotypical Italians, but that's OK here. His father (Tony Danza) can't get enough football and is willing to fight at the drop of a hat, while his mother wants nothing more than to see Jon bring home the perfect girlfriend. Jon's sister (Brie Larson) can't set down her iPhone, but when she does speak up, it is every bit as important as what Silent Bob offers in "Chasing Amy."

Gordon-Levitt is proving to be the master in starring in non-conventional romance movies, from the shown-out-of-order "(500) Days of Summer" to the cancer-comedy "50/50." I love that this movie is told entirely from the man's perspective, which is just a rarity in date movies. And just like "(500) Days of Summer," Gordon-Levitt isn't afraid of being in a movie that has a different ending than perhaps the audience wants or expects.

The ending didn't quite work for me, hurting the overall grade, but this was still an excellent film.

Vetter can be reached at 715-723-0303 or chris.vetter@ecpc.com.

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(c)2013 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

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