Marrieds at the Movies: The Quietly Brilliant, Totally Entertaining 'Don Jon'

Every Friday night, Movies.com sends cinephiles (and newlyweds) Sarah and Joe Piccirillo to see a film. Afterwards, they answer a few questions about it. Below is their discussion.

 

Don Jon

Synopsis: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Don Jon, a New Jersey meathead who becomes embroiled in a love triangle with a club girl (Scarlett Johansson) and his collection of porn. It’s a scathing indictment against millennial (and perennial) narcissism.


Was this a good date movie?

Sarah: I felt like this was a great date movie, although I didn't know it at first. Despite all the porn and sex, it wasn't a sexy movie until Julianne Moore showed up.

Joe: I think we should take a moment to define the words "sexy" and "despite." I hear what you’re saying. I saw the difference between Gordon-Levitt’s narcissistic sex scenes with Johansson and his connected ones with Moore, but let’s not toss out grenades like "Julianne Moore" and "sexy." Still, this was a solid date movie. Probably the best we’ve reviewed.

Sarah: I also feel like this is one of those movies that could tip you over into a breakup if the relationship is already struggling.

Joe: In that way, the movie is genius. It spends so much time supporting the standard relationship dogma like "every guy watches porn," and "women need to push their men to reach their potential," that when the ending proves those things false, it strands 90% of the couples in the audience. I’d say it’s schadenfreude, but I don’t feel the shame.

 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and starred in this. How did he do?

Sarah: Really, really well. I think he managed to make a totally entertaining, smart movie that says as much as you want to take out of it personally.

Joe: I don’t know why, but I want to hate this guy. And he won’t let me. Not in Looper or Dark Knight Rises and especially not in this. It was quietly brilliant.

Sarah: Gordon-Levitt is great at communicating subtle changes. He's almost grotesquely groomed when we first see Jon, but as the character starts to open up and deepen, he shifts his posture and tone.

Joe: Yep. And it was reflected in the direction too. Most of the movie feels claustrophobic but after Gordon-Levitt’s awakening, the film breathes easier, shots linger longer, and the character and audience both have permission to relax.

Sarah: Critics are saying that Tony Danza and Scarlett Johansson's performances are funny and that's a little confusing to me. I think both veered toward caricature but also accurately showed people who exist. I've met them.

Joe: You’ve met them? We’re related to them! Critics are either offended on behalf of Italians or they are so isolated from them that they think this depiction is nuts. They’re not aliens; they exist. We had pasta with them last week.

Sarah: What if they read this?

Joe: Nobody reads this. Also, good news. I figured it out. It’s 3rd Rock from the Sun. That’s why I want to hate Gordon-Levitt, but I’m not sure he’s to blame for that show. It might be French Stewart. Or God.

 

What did you love?

Sarah: I loved that this movie tricked the hell out of me. It took me 45 minutes to realize I was watching a satire. I blame Hollywood for my lowered expectations.

Joe: I loved the spot-on comparison of the unrealistic fantasies created by porn and romantic comedies.

Sarah: I loved the patterned structure of repeated activities, watching how Jon's behavior changes while going through all the same routines.

Joe: Right and the way it’s shot makes it seem like porn is another healthy part of that routine. This is a film about masturbation, but the way it’s handled it never feels gross or dirty.

Sarah: I loved hating Barbara Sugarman. She’s a familiar beast of a woman who is controlling under the guise of improvement.

Joe: Yeah, that Swiffer scene. Man. It perfectly captures that kind of woman, which is almost every woman.

 

What will you be thinking about tomorrow?

Joe: How you said the movie got sexy when Julianne Moore showed up. It’s going to haunt my nightmares.

Sarah: The weird thing is... almost nothing. We saw this movie and forgot we saw it a few hours later. I'm a little confused that something so good could be so forgettable.

Joe: You’re right. It’s thin, but entertaining without being too preachy.

Sarah: One thing: I never thought he was addicted to porn; I thought he was just the average single guy.

Joe: I thought that was what made it remarkable. I liked that Gordon-Levitt chose porn as the outlet for Jon’s disconnection. If he had chosen bodybuilding or sex or drugs, it would have let the audience off the hook. 


Verdict

Sarah: See it! Unless you just had a fight with your boyfriend about watching porn. Then I'd probably go see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

Joe: See it. Unless you just had a fight with your girlfriend about watching porn. Then I’d probably stay home and watch more porn.

 

Sarah and Joe are writers/editors who live in Boston. They met in a bar and married within a year. They love to argue about early Woody Allen films and old romantic comedies. They both agree to hate musicals.

 

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