Saturday, October 12, 2013

Don Jon (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Don Jon

Here is yet another take on a sex addiction character study with a lighter tone than Steve McQueen's "Shame" or Stuart Blumberg's "Thanks for Sharing". Here we are in the universe of John Badham's "Saturday Night Fever" seen through a millennial filter, complete with the Internet, techno-rave beats and the ubiquity of porn. The whole of "Don Jon" can be seen as a conceptual re-imagination of Badham's classic film about the disco era.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt slickly directs and stars as Jon, an overly confident womanizer who sees the hunt for sex as a sport and is addicted to online porn. Before you judge Jon as  a sleaze,  consider that he has a charming, self deprecating manner at times and his macho overconfidence is a mask shielding  himself from intimacy. While he is egotistical and very selfishly thinks sex with a real person is a laborious chore, there is a strange stunted innocence to this boy / man. Jon hasn't matured and he likes it that way. Jon and his friends don't really work. They linger about and ridicule each other, mostly spending their time at a club. Standing in a cluster they coldly debate the female attributes of patrons as if they were cattle. The group hovers like a murder of crows in a manufactured re-enactment of an "Entourage" episode.

Once at his apartment, the solitary Jon turns on his computer, watching the digital collaged fractals of flesh zoom across his body as his face explodes into a ball of white light.

One night at the club, he sees the coy, good natured and sexy Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). Seeing Barbara's allure of stable unattainability, the boys cajole Jon into approaching her.

Jon puts the aggressive moves on her and gets rejected.

But the following day, Barbara agrees to lunch and becomes smitten by the confident smooth talker.

The two date. Barbara withholds sex from Jon wanting to wait for matrimonial promise. One fateful night, she catches Jon with his laptop in his lap. Barbara is disgusted, but she gives him a second chance.

Interspersed within this tempest, Jon goes soldierly to Sunday Confession admitting to infinite compulsive masturbation acts and losses of temper. Jon invariably receives the order of ten Hail Marys no matter how serious or trifling the offense. This is one of the more daring aspects of the film in its poking of conventional Catholicism.

Jon goes to the gym, whispering penance as he lifts: the good Catholic.

But that night, he opens his laptop, a suitcase of sin.

Scarlett Johansson is very good as an alluring goody two shoes, risqué around the edges who all too carefully follows conventional expectations. Also wonderful is Julianne Moore who is pensive, daring and melancholic in a kind of Mrs. Robinson role.

The thrust of "Don Jon" however is embodied in Levitt. Although his role seems a parody of Tony Manero, and very much is, with his slick bristled pomp greased up in combination  with his jet black wardrobe and his loud Jersey jeer, we also observe his softness, his hesitance and his yearning spirit. Also intriguing is Levitt's emphasis on the frequency of sexual power permanently embedded in our lives--- from living rooms, classrooms, gyms and even in the minds of our fathers.

Although "Don Jon" may fail to analyze compulsion and addiction deeply, we get a lively picture of Jon that reveals itself in a browser of almost picaresque sweetness. This film like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "The Graduate" or "Saturday Night Fever", could well be time capsules all speaking lightly of the past, while documenting our present.

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