FILM: DON JON
CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson, Glenne Headly
DIRECTOR: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a strong, handsome, good old fashioned guy. His buddies call him ‘Don Jon’ due to his ability to “pull” a different woman every weekend, but even the finest fling doesn’t compare to the bliss he finds alone in front of the computer watching pornography. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a bright, beautiful, good old fashioned girl. Raised on romantic Hollywood movies, she’s determined to find her Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset. Wrestling with good old fashioned expectations of the opposite sex, Jon and Barbara struggle against a media culture full of false fantasies to try and find true intimacy in this unexpected comedy written and directed by Gordon-Levitt.
Gordon-Levitt isn’t about to pull any punches. In his provocative, fun, and appealingly frank R-rated comedy, the writer, director and star dives into a host of thorny topics: objectification, intimacy, and today’s media, to name a few. And he does it with the cool-headed forthrightness that’s defined him as an actor, whether it’s playing a lovelorn outsider in ‘500 Days of Summer’, a cancer survivor in ‘50/50’, or a steely cop in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. ‘Don Jon’ is a hilarious and refreshingly honest dissection of modern American machismo.
While ‘Don Jon’ might be the first mainstream American comedy to highlight pornography – the reasons why we watch, why we continue watching – Gordon-Levitt is quick to point out his debut feature isn’t really about porn at all. “I wanted to tell a love story,” he says. “But what I’ve observed is, what often gets in the way of love is how people objectify each other.”
A life-long actor who’s garnered increasing fame in his film career, Gordon-Levitt is no stranger to the notions of objectification, particularly at the hands of the media. “Sure, maybe I want to tell this story because I’ve felt objectified in my life,” he says. “But it happens to everyone, to friends of mine outside Hollywood. We put expectations on each other, and rather than engaging with a unique individual and listening to what the other has to say, right at this moment, we put people in boxes with labels.”
“I also wanted to compare pornography to the rest of our media, even perfectly mainstream stuff,” Gordon-Levitt continues. “We see it all the time in movies, TV shows, or commercials, especially commercials. A person–usually a woman–is reduced to a thing, a sex object. And whether the image is rated X or, you know, approved for general viewing audiences, the message is the same. That’s what I wanted to talk about, and sort of make fun of.”
While Jon objectifies women with porn, his new girlfriend, Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, is distracted by fantasies of her own. A drop-dead gorgeous Catholic girl who’s by no means a prude, Barbara nevertheless has very particular ideas of what a relationship should look like, many of which are gathered from Hollywood romantic comedies. “Women grow up with this idea of what a man should be, whether that comes from films or from our parents or fairytales,” says Johansson. “So, the same way Jon has created this fantasy world as a means of escaping what’s in front of him, Barbara creates this idea of the perfect future, the perfect life, the perfect man, the perfect family. Her ideals don’t leave room for the humanity of a relationship.”