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October 5, 2013
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What Don Jon Says About Our Culture, Porn Addiction, and True Intimacy

— Posted by Kenny Miles

 

“You have to lose yourself in another person. It’s a two way thing.” -Julianne Moore, Don Jon

 

Sex sells. And a lot of the sex went into the promotions of the romantic comedy Don Jon, the energetic filmmaking debut from the talented and beloved Joseph Gordon Levitt who wrote, directed, and starred in the movie. From Sundance premiere to the mainstream wide release treatment (an opening weekend in 2400 theaters is a rarity for an indie in this industry).

 

 

The story follows Don (Joseph Gordon Levitt) as a devout Catholic (he lifts weights while repeating Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s) burdened by the routine of his life which includes an addiction to pornography. Amusing side characters including his controlling, “perfect 10” love interest (Scarlet Johansson), his loud mouth, sex obsessed father (Tony Danza in a surprisingly solid comedic role), and his quiet, text message addicted sister (indie ‘It-Girl’ Brie Larson of Short Term 12) provided more layers of depth. However, it is the middle movie twist of Julianne Moore’s involvement as the broken and tender classmate who educates him on how love and life truly function, Don Jon becomes serious.

 

 

Addiction is a serious issue. The studio Relativity did no favors in selling the movie to audiences from the advertisements to even taking the word “addiction” from the original title Don Jon’s Addiction. This might have something to do with its dismal CinemaScore rating of a C+ and portraying the movie as one thing when it is something else. One thing I know as a pollster and working in a box office, movie audiences don’t like the bait and switch.

 

To the studio’s credit, Don Jon is a tough sell. Convincing audiences they want to watch a movie about a man’s private struggle with pornography in the female friendly genre of the romantic comedy was challenging. In an movie era where audiences want safe, familiar, unoriginal, and comfortable, Don Jon doesn’t cater to those desires. As a movie, Don Jon is a toned down, mainstream Shame with a cuddly heart of gold crossed with a lower quality, filthy Silver Linings Playbook. This is difficult for shallow audiences to accept, but savvy audiences can find rewarding.

 

Indie movies which are directed and written by actors tend to be passion projects. What Joseph Gordon Levitt created here was the first very man friendly romantic comedy that I can recall. He also wants to say something to his gender and his generation. The addiction of lust and the instant gratification of objectifying one another isn’t glamorized in a refreshing change of pace for mainstream culture. And a love addiction in a sex saturated world is daunting. The accessibility to porn being seconds away is frustrating. At the core of Don Jon was an honest critique at how porn ruins man’s ability to connect with woman and the self-discovery to overcome an addiction to experience true intimacy.

 

Hilarious, heartfelt, raw, and genuine, my sexually saturated generation needs to understand this message preached at the end. It was these thematic implications that were pleasant and reassuring. Many celebrities have their pretentious points of view placed in their movies or in interviews. Sometimes this can alienate viewers who don’t agree with them. However, people need to walk away from with a better understanding of  how porn addicts live a life of connection and intimacy in our sex obsessed culture.

 

 

Don Jon is about a man who decides to ultimately change his bad behavior. We live in an era where people don’t want to take responsibility for their shortcomings and addictions. Yes, taking the first step in the 12 Steps is challenging, but ultimately rewarding. And Don needed to achieve the realization on his own with the assistance of his family, friends, and faith at a cautious distance. After all, the porn effects how he sees the world and interacts within his relationships. For the addict, admitting the fault is a difficult step in life to take. What I think Joseph Gordon Levitt was trying to say was the lack of intimacy in modern day society especially among his generation is rampant. Don Jon obviously isn’t counseling, but it gets people thinking about what they value. And that needs to be the affection and intimacy of others.

 

 

This post was written by :

who has written 245 posts on The Movie Blog

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers (something most movie pundits lack) as a pollster for the market research company CinemaScore and working as floor staff/special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.

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