Late last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to a screening of the new Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie Don Jon. Invitations? Screenings? I know what you're thinking, but no — this post is not being ghostwritten by Kerry Washington. I am normal woman just like you or your aunt Carol. I just happened to get invited to a free screening with a bunch of other non-famous people who, in this case, acted like they had never seen a movie or interacted with other people before. Everyone was loud, everyone was confused and it was pretty much the most exciting/least glamorous thing ever.
Initially, I had hoped to write a straight forward review of the movie because it's JGL's directorial debut and it's about porn addiction — two subjects very close to the Jezebel reader's heart. Unfortunately, my plans didn't pan out because I was so entertained with bizarre activity happening in the theater around me that I could barely focus on what was happening on screen.
Still, I hate to short-change you, so I had to come up with a backup. This is my review of Don Jon..based entirely on comments I overheard in the theater.
Don Jon begins with a supercut of near-pornographic images meant to demonstrate, in a very heavy-handed way, how pornography surrounds us constantly. (To be fair, I think you could say that about any legal vice like alcohol, food or cigarettes, but whatever.) One flash of footage from a horror movie shows a topless woman get an arrow directly to the eye and boob. It was gross, but the guy behind me thought it was great. How do I know he thought it was great? Because he yelled "This is great!" at the top of his lungs.
Here are the other parts this guy thought were great: When JGL's character Jon — a Situation-esque Jersey boy with a fleeting accent and love of weight lifting — talks about how porn is better than real-life sex because "real-life pussy can kill you" and when explains why going down on a woman is disgusting. The heightened way Jon voices his opinions lead me to believe that we're supposed to think he's sad and ridiculous, but this guy behind me seemed only to think that Jon was right on. I know this because he shouted "Right on!"
Eventually, Jon meets Scarlett Johansson's character Barbara (a romantic comedy-obsessed, nightmare woman who wouldn't be out of place in the cast of Jerseylicious) at a nightclub and he falls instantly in love with her nice face and hot hot body. She is indeed very hot and Johansson does a bang up job in the role, but from the Oh, yeahhhhs I heard from the men in the audience, the only thing that really matters was the hot thing.
Both Barbara and Jon are horrible empty people who deserve each other, though Johannson does a better job giving her character depth than JGL does. His representation of Jon is such an overblown portrait of Jersey-residing Italian dude that he might as well be named Guido Di Guidaccio and constantly have a slice of pizza hanging out of his mouth. (The Italian-American community has already voiced concerns about the stereotypes portrayed in the film — unsurprising when you consider that the objections are coming from such an emotional and reactionary people.)
But those are just my opinions on the movie! What did my fellow audience members think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Italian clown act? They loved it! They loved it so damn much that they wanted to marry it — probably in a big Italian wedding with a bridal purse and a private room where you can go ask Marlon Brando for special favors.
What they didn't love, it turns out, was character development. When Jon begins a surprising friendship with Esther, a slightly older, recent widow played by the always-captivating Julianne Moore, people got very restless. I would say this is where the movie finally got interesting, but my fellow audience members profoundly disagreed. When Esther tells Jon that maybe his problems with sex have less to do with the women he's sleeping with and more to do with him (a talking-to that was a long time coming), the woman sitting next to me got up, left the theater, returned, then took a call on her cellphone. Luckily, she told whoever she was talking to that now was a bad time, but that was only because she needed to get up and leave the theater a few more times.
The guy sitting behind me — the same one who is very into sexy ladies getting murdered and real-life pussy that can kill you — was very frustrated when Julianne Moore made a joke about Jon being bad at fucking. "Why is everybody laughing?" he asked the woman sitting next to him — who I don't think he came into the theater with. "I don't get it. What's funny about that?" It's so nice when someone isn't afraid to look stupid by asking a question.
At this point, I had been in the theater for nearly 90-minutes and was just about ready to give in to this crazy new world order. What should I do to fit in with my new best friends? Take off my pants? Start eating food off the floor? I think I saw the lady sitting next to me drop the remains of her hot dog down there so that was promising, but right as I was about to do it, the movie ended.
You know the final scene of Lord of the Flies where Ralph sees his adult rescuer and bursts into tears because his friend is dead, he was forced to fight for his life and he finally realizes that he'll never truly be a kid again? That's what leaving the movie theater was like. Only instead of war paint, we were covered in each other's shame and instead of losing our innocence, we'd simply lost all respect for our fellow humans. (Thank you to the usher who held me while I cried, mourning the loss of the girl I was before entering the theater. I never got your name, but I will never forget you — even though I'll try to forget everything else.)
TWO THUMBS UP.