I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt a lot. I think he’s a pretty funny, talented guy, so I was really looking forward to his directorial debut with Don Jon, a flick that purports to be about the differences (or similarities) between pornos and romantic comedies.
So here’s my conundrum: Don Jon don’t really address the porn vs. rom-com divide.
If you’ve seen the flick, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What do you mean Don Jon ain’t about porn vs. romance?” Jon even says to Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), during a fight about his porn-watching habits, that they most certainly do give awards for porn*, and therefore her argument that romantic movies are superior (because, awards = good!) is unfounded. These two do almost nothing together but argue about whether it’s okay for Jon to watch porn, in light of the fact that he’s in a relationship with a hot young lady, and he retorts that she is equally fixated on watching cheesy rom-coms that in no way accurately portray real relationships.
But that’s about as far as that argument goes in the film. It piques the viewer’s interest, ostensibly asking “Which is more realistic, porn or rom-coms?” but then never takes the line of questioning any further. Why? Because the entire shell of the movie is built around a rom-com storyline.
I mean, obviously it can’t be a porno. And, also obviously, porn cannot truly be portrayed as “superior” to romance, whether in a Hollywood movie or elsewhere in the mainstream purview. So isn’t the whole argument kind of moot?
To be honest, I’d like to see a non-documentary film that tackles porn as a serious subject worthy of discussion. At first, I thought this might be where Don Jon was headed, since Jon is essentially portrayed as an addict. The fact that he’s also pretty unrepentant about his addiction, even when it dooms his relationship with his perfect woman, is also a good start. But ultimately, his addiction is easily shucked; all he has to do is meet the “right” woman — the older, wiser Esther (Julianne Moore).
That’s about where Don Jon lost me. I mean, if we’re talking about sex or porn addictions, it’s not like you can quit cold turkey at the drop of a hat and live “happily ever after” just because you find someone worthy of a real relationship. Sure, breaking up with the superficial club chick is probably a step in the right direction, but what is it about Esther that “cures” Jon? Her magical pussy? (Note to self: The Magical Pussy would make a great book title.)
“Everyone loves a happy ending” is the film’s tag line, which suggests both the sexual variety and the romantic one. Since it’s playing the rom-com storyline, Don Jon feels the need to have a Happily Ever After (or at least Happy For Now) ending. And that just drove my irritation with the film home.
If you want to shoot a film that’s truly original and thought-provoking, here’s an idea: DON’T give us the happy ending we crave. Give us something else — the ending we deserve, not the one we want. Not all sex ends in orgasm. Not all romances end in wedding bells. Not all movies need to end with fake happy endings.
That’s just my opinion, anyway. But then, I’ve always enjoyed a good tragedy. Isn’t Don Juan supposd to be one of those?
* Tangent Alert: they’re called the AVN Awards, and in pun-related news, the Clever Title of the Year Award for 2014 went to Seymore Butts for Cirque du Hole-A.