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October 31st, 2014

Don Jon

Hollywood never makes honest movies about sex. I can think of two reasons why:

 

1) This is a Puritan country. New England was originally settled by strict Calvinists. The Puritans found the Church of England to be so tolerant on social issues that they chose to leave the entire continent rather than live amongst the hedonists. America has been more prudish than Europe from day one.

 

2) Most movies are written by people like me: skinny, pale nerdy guys who have never had the opportunity to completely objectify women. We are confident enough in front of a word processor, but not confident enough to simply stare at a hot girl in a club and take her home without even getting to know her.

 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, however, has had that experience many times, I’m sure. And that’s why he was able to make such an unusual and unusually truthful film about a regular young man and his relationship with sex.

 

First time writer/director Gordon-Levitt stars as Jon: an average 20-something Jersey guy. He’s got a big car, big muscles, and a medium sized brain.

 

On the face of it, Jon is a Jersey Shore stereotype. But he isn’t The Situation; he’s a real guy – a decent young man who eats Sunday dinner with his family and goes to Confession once a week.

 

Jon only ever has two things to confess: casual sex and internet porn. Jon’s problem is that he genuinely prefers porn to actual human contact.

 

The story heats up when Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and has his first serious relationship. Jon genuinely loves Barbara, but when Barbara makes him promise to give up internet porn, Jon genuinely lies to her.

 

“Don Jon” is more interesting than it sounds. Jon and Barbara do not live happily ever after. And Gordon-Levitt argues that a woman who demands that her man must stop watching porn is controlling and delusional.

 

The film is not about a man falling in love with a woman. It’s about a man slowly growing up and learning to experience romantic intimacy.

 

Moviegoers expecting to see a romantic comedy will be severely disappointed and possibly confused. Those looking for a sharp, entertaining, honest drama will be impressed.

 

I haven’t seen a better movie this year than “Don Jon.” And I haven’t seen a more interesting character than Don Jon. I love his impassioned, vulgar argument as to why missionary is the worst possible position. Our Puritan ancestors would have burnt him at the stake.

 

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