June 12, 2014

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 2013
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper, The Dark Knight Rises, 500 Days of Summer) makes his directorial debut showcases him as gym-rat Jon, a serial one night stander who finally meets a girl he falls for. Unfortunately she quickly interrupts his long-going online porn addiction.

Levitt is typically seen playing the innocent type with more of a reticent charm. Here he is much more outgoing, basically playing someone straight of Jersey Shore central casting. A man of much routine. His life ultimately consists of little variation from going to the gym, to the club with the same friends, home with a random girl he meets at the club, and then to church every Sunday to scrub his conscience clean in the confession booth so he can later "enjoy" family dinner with his father (Tony Danza) screaming at him.

While MTV's Jersey Shore showed the world that there are actually people out there like the ones parodied in the film, Levitt's cast are ultimately caricatures of neo-italian New Jerseyians who hang their cultural pride high, they help to examine the concept of sexuality in our culture. The types who have that mythical family member who is "connected" that they threaten each other with over the dinner table while fighting over the last piece of Lasagna. Empty threats that are shouted underneath cheap-cloth Italian flags that they hang wherever necessary. 

The film examines the sex sells marketing concept and the outright hypocrisy that exists in the American culture. It's okay for the girls to watch the improbable, sappy romantic flicks but it's taboo for the men to watch pornography. The film also touches on the idea of the male population becoming less masculine and more metro-sexual. His examination largely works because he keeps it simple. Jon is so addicted to his streaming video in front of him because one, he is an enormous control freak. But more importantly, his impulses had been largely self serving for much of his adult life. And its sort of a collective approach by everyone hitting the bars at night. They are all basically feeding their inflated egos. When they go home with someone they met, its another knotch on their belt, not likely their future wife. As soon as Jon realizes that there is more of a partnership to true lovemaking, it all changes. Levitt could have easily tried to prove himself to the film-making community by biting off more than he could chew. He could have confused his freshman project with too many story threads, too much abstraction, or could have gone in heavy-handed. But he didn't. And the final product felt more confident because of it. Good for him. 

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