Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and written by him, too, also himself). Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson (and a serious bee-sting lips, beachball hips woof), Glenn Headly, Tony Danza, Marianne Moore (the butt naked in Big Lebowski Marianne Moore… no, wait a minute, that’s the poetess Marianne Moore of fee-male poet fame like name two of her poems, yeah, that’s what I thought… This is Julianne Moore… ah, same thin except Marianne Moore didn’t show her but in The Big Lebowski, far as I know). Set Design: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Production Values: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. New Jersey Accents: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Screenplay Adaptation from the Short Story by Leo (“The Situation”) Tolstoy: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Hey. I’m dozing through a Faculty meeting when briefly the fog dissipates long enough for me to hear an outraged fee-male professor inveigh against the vestigial presence of the syllable “man” in “emancipate: “Lincoln freed men and women,” she declares. As the Classics professor rolls his eyes and gurgles of despair rise from his gorge, the Chaplain piously offers in consolation that “not all instances of the syllable ‘man’ derive from the male… for instance “chairman,” where the ‘man’ is from ‘manus, ‘hand’ in Latin.” Beati pauperes spiritu.
And that brings us to “masturbate” (Latin “mastus,” “poultry”; Latin “turbare,” “strangle”). And that brings us, by commodious vicus, to Don Jon. Critics debate whether the “Don” refers to the Don Juan of operatic fame (oh, yeah… name two arias from it, yeah, that’s what I thought) or the other “Don,” of Don Corleone “sei un uomo” fame. Don’t matter much. Both of them happening in New Jersey, the freshly refound Eden of teevee and cineemah: Jersey Girl, Garden State, Jersey Shore, Gigli (I think… if it’s not set in New Jersey, should be). Teasers already alerted us to the dubious premise, that the eponymous protagonist of the same name, him too, suffers from an addiction to what everyone seems determined to call ”porn” these days and this primarily over his laptop (so to speak… lap top? Laptop? Whap! Sorry I hadda do that, but you fotched up with the look again). The HTRL (or whatever the flock it is) is pornhub.com in case you’re looking (and be careful on account of it’s an actual site/sight… or so I heard).
We’re reliably informed that “all guys do it” though whether “it” is scanning pornography or strangling the above poultry or both remain unspecified elements of the indictment. The implicit “addiction,” anything but subtle and the refuge of any weak-willed simpleton these days (“I’m an addict… whatcha gonna do?”) becomes even less subtle in the proposed alternate title to the film, Don Jon’s Addiction, in case you missed it, you dummy, though it eventuates that there’s another and possibly more tragic addiction here, that of the breathtaking Barbara (thank God it’s not Barbra) Sugarman (Zuckermann) for romance and the fluffy trappings of the ewige Weibliche (German for “butt that would stop a clock”). Curiously, the second specification seems to be the more serious with opprobrium appearing, best I can figure at any rate, falling rather on Sugarman for her naiveté and disposition to idyll (or idle or idol, all of them pronounced the same and mean essentially same thing).
Story is that Don Jon Martello (“hammer” in Italian, if you catch my drift), a transparent egoist (and onanist) lives for himself: his family, his church (he’s an RC and piously declares his sins at Confession, racking up the Hail Marys and Our Fathers then knocking them out as he does reps in his gym. He’s got a guy car and a guy pad and snags the hottest fee-males at his guy bar, identifying prospectives by their umph or their umph umphs (either of which could stop a clock), the very aptest of whom rate a “dime,” in his lingo. Sadly, once back at his place and after what for anyone else would be satisfying sex, Don Jon sneaks out of bed to pop open his lap (top) and engage in what we’ll call for a better word: ipsism (Latin “ipse,” “carrot”). Finally he hauls in the diadem of the crown, Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), whom his lout of an Old Man spots as Jewish right off though Mom (Glenn Headly) appreciates her manifest domesticity). Don Jon duly seduces (or is it t’other way around) and then relinquishes her afterward to gratify his lap (top).
She’s the one, he decides. Things go along well enough till she catches him at it. Outraged, she gives him one chance to reform (didn’t do much good when Father Murphy tried, but…). Don Jon can’t seem to shake it, though, (urf urf!), and tumbles into recidivism (Latin “reciduus,” “donkey,” and “vitiare,” “flagellate”). Caught in flog-rante (urf urf!), he watches her depart his life forever, merciless fidelity to a dream of human relation. As this drama plays out, howsomever, another character enters the arena, Esther, a burnt-out, pot-sucking, still-comely (niche pretty much staked out by Julianne Moore) older woman, classmate of Jon’s in the night classes he’s agreed to take for Barabara’s sake, part of her dream, not his. Esther spots Jon’s lap (top) in action and offers him erotica in place of “porn,” becoming a whore-goddess-bunkbuddy and ultimately initiating him to a different kind of sex where—wait for it—“you lose yourself,” in the “other.”
Don Jon (us, of course) learns something. You’re free to figure out what: You might think the tsk-tsking should direct itself at the self-absorbed Jon though it’s the remorseless Barbara whom we seem invited to take in execration, the both of them, I guess, in thrall to unreal expectations of human communion, she more deluded than he? “She has an agenda,” announces the voice of objectivity unexpectedly. The horror, the horror. Well, hell… that Johansson girl certainly does have an agenda, and one would stop a clock, too. I like Gordon-Levitt and highly recommend his films Brick and Premium Rush, both excellent and little noticed since his breakout in Ten Things I Hate About You (you can keep Blooper). Don Jon, though, just doesn’t make it in this reviewer’s um, er… view. Just too, um, er… heavy-handed, one might say.