Due to “no pants Friday,” a history paper on the horizon and the incalculable impact of a solid outline, I am going to review the odd film Don Jon in classic Intro to Screenwriting film analysis format. You’re welcome, public at large.
Jon, the “don,” or Joseph Gordon-Levitt at his most Guido-esque, is a Catholic church attending, Italian food eating, gym buff, “pussy”-pounding porn addict who finally meets a girl, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who won’t sleep with him. Shocker. She actually makes him wait. It is at this climactic moment in the movie that my best friend leans over and asks: “Should we be taking notes?”
What is the Major Dramatic Question?
Will Jon find something that lets him “lose himself” the way porn consistently does? On a tangential note, I now feel qualified to say that there is something seriously lacking in the production value of internet porn. Where are the buoyant soundtracks? Heightened tension and consequent conflict? Character development? Witty subtext?
Briefly describe the inciting incident, plot point 1, the midpoint, plot point 2, and the climax:
Inciting incident: When “don” Jon, a successful player, cannot sleep with Barbara. She’s just too hot to sleep with a guy the first time she makes out with him in a club. That’s for 6’s and 7‘s, and Barbara is a 10. This attracts Jon to such a point that he surmises Barbara is “the one.”
Plot Point 1: Barbara bumps and grinds on Jon and convinces him (in an irrational, horny moment) to meet her friends, introduce her to his family and take a night class. “You’d look so good in a suit, Baby” she coos, as she rubs herself against him. Moral of the story: boys trying to “get it in” can be convinced to do anything. Even attend school! The pair become “boyfriend-girlfriend.”
Midpoint: Jon has sex with Barbara, something he has waited for a WHOLE MONTH. The experience is the sexual equivalent of “lame sauce.” Yeah, Barbara’s perfectly endowed and he “loves” her, but sex with Barbara still cannot equal the good pull of a boom-boom video. After he consummates his relationship with Barbara, he leaves the room to watch porn. When she catches him, mid-pull, Jon is forced to promise that he will never watch porn again.
Spoiler: he cannot stop. PSA: this is how addiction works.
Plot Point 2: Jon recognizes Barbara’s penchant for control when she forces him to stop Swiffering his house (because “cleaning is for women”). Barbara breaks up with Jon after realizing he never stopped watching porn. He develops a relationship with Esther (Julianne Moore), an older, more experienced woman in his night class.
Lily’s plot point 2: the film finally gets interesting when Jon and Esther interact. Previous to this moment, the film serves as a PSA that if you want a heterosexual man, you must manipulate them.
Climax: Jon has sex with Esther and realizes that he can “lose himself” in another person instead of porn. A changed man, he stops gelling his hair, is sweet to his sister and hangs out with the friends he has left behind.
What is the ultimate message of the film?
Pornography has no value, and sex is meaningful because it allows two people to (figuratively and metaphorically) fill the other person. I suppose I should have seen it coming the whole time. The rest of the film depicts the lifeblood of Jon’s character—sex, porn, gym, pasta—as unhealthy and sad. The movie is essentially a morality tale.
Does it work?
Eh. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt is attractive and boyishly charming (a lá Vassar male population at large), his physical characteristics are not suited for a psuedo-”Guido” persona. He and Scarlett Johansson have the worst Jersey accents ever caught on film. Furthermore, if Johansson was not allowed to snap gum the entire film, half of her personality would be lost.
The pacing of the film is awful. We spend a very monotonous two-thirds of the movie watching Jon in the gym, in church with his family, homosocially defying his misogynistic father and being inundated with images of blonde women giving oral. While I do appreciate Don Jon as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first large scale screenwriting credit, it cannot be ignored that the narrative moves exceptionally slowly.
The relationship with Esther, the older, pot-smoking, widowed and “experienced” woman in Jon’s night class provides the only touching or semi-interesting aspect to the narrative. Through Jon’s interactions with Esther, we realize how flimsy Jon’s whole life is- and what he has been missing by losing himself in porn for all of this time. However, we are not introduced to Esther until at least halfway into the film, and Jon and Esther do not form a relationship until at least half of the way through.
In conclusion: does it work?
Yes and no. The film is entertaining the way a porn can delight: pretty pictures and quick cinematic “cuts” from one shot to the next, attractive people and repetitive penetration of the same ideas, and an ultimate (if late-breaking) climax. However, to quote the songstress of our generation, Jojo, “it’s just too little, too late.” Just as Jon comes to realize that porn is not wholly satisfying, so too does the audience member leave Don Jon. One might feel physically spent afterwards, but mentally, most will remain underwhelmed.