Don Jon is a finely written and produced film by Joseph Gordon Levitt that explores porn addiction in a macho man who has trouble getting outside himself to see another person's point of view. Don Jon (Levitt) objectifies everything in his life--women, his body, his car, even his church. He is highly disciplined in his work-outs, his schedule, and driving, and when anything/anybody gets in the way, he loses his temper. He has become so narcissistic, he gets more out of porn sex than he does with a real woman. And he sees no problem with this. He is outwardly attractive--gorgeous body!--and is successful in his seductions. Life is good.
But Don Jon is hit between the eyes--so to speak--when a blond bombshell, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson,) glides into the nightclub and holds her own with him. He's not used to snags in his seductions, which, of course, makes her even more attractive to him. He is intrigued (hooked) and continues to pursue her even as she delays and delays going to bed with him. When she finally does give in, then catches him at his computer right afterwards, she only stays because he promises never to do it again (oh, sure!). There are many funny lines in the film, and one is Barbara saying, "Movies and porn are different; they give awards to movies."
Their relationship blossoms; they meet each other's families who are pleased with their choices. We see that Don Jon is a chip off the old block when his dad (Tony Danza) is mesmerized by Barbara. As cracks begin to appear in the relationship, Don Jon is not bothered, only a little troubled. One issue surrounds cleaning. He is a neat freak and loves to clean his apartment, but Barbara, who is from a wealthy family, says, "Don't talk about vacuuming in front of me." She wants to send her maid over to his apartment; he shouldn't be doing anything so low class.
Enter Esther (Julianne Moore), a classmate in a course Don Jon is taking. He is completely unaware of her--even when he passes her crying in the doorway of the building--but she seems to want to be friends and corners him one day. Her attitudes toward porn and many other things are very different from any he has heard, and despite himself, he is curious about this older woman. This friendship will have a significant impact on him in a positive way because she has none of the oppositionality he is accustomed to in himself and others in his circle. She has a story that pulls from him feelings he has never before experienced, and he begins to see Barbara in a different light. The viewer should find resolution of the story in the film well done and satisfying.
Levitt is to be congratulated on accomplishing so much in his first written/directed/produced film. It depicts the manifestations of addiction intelligently from social and emotional standpoints and illustrates how personal relationships can be essential in overcoming its power over a person. Levitt is outstanding in his performance, and he and Scarlett Johansson make a fine duo with good chemistry. She also performs one of her finest and sexiest roles. Julianne Moore's character is a perfect contrast, with her natural warmth and understanding. All of these actors are at the top of their game. The inclusion of Don Jon's sister as glued to her cell phone and making only a couple of statements that turn out to be profound is a clever addition and well portrayed by Brie Larson. The Tony Danza character is just who one would expect would be Don Jon's father. He is well cast for this role.
Not only is this movie highly entertaining, it has a great deal of substance in its portrayal of addiction. Grade: A
Salinger, a documentary by Shane Salerno, based on a book co-written by him and David Shields, is a challenge to cover in a documentary because of the author’s skittishness about his story being publicized (hence, a dearth of primary sources), but also because he was a complex man who gave out mixed messages and led a complex life with so many types of relationships. I experienced a high degree of ambivalence in hearing about him, along with being mystified as to why everyday people who had never been introduced sought him out so relentlessly with no respect for his wishes for privacy. This is not uncommon, of course, but he seems to have been plagued more than most famous people are.
On the other hand, the manner in which he treated family members and close friends and associates makes his outrage about their stories and publications unjustified. I am thinking of his children and the abrupt ways he would dismiss a wife, lover, or friend after what he perceived as an infraction or breach of trust. The film emphasizes that the effect of the war on him accounts for much of this; and although I can imagine that might be the case, it is difficult to make that call without more information about his early life. His ability to pull for other people’s anger and rebellion is evidenced not only by the memoirs that have surfaced, but also by three young men shooting famous people after being moved by his novel, Catcher in the Rye. Salinger did not apparently have much insight into this propensity of his, as implied by his saying that “Catcher in the Rye is [simply] about a kid who goes to New York and does things”, which minimizes the intense experience many people have when they read the book.
The film makes the claim that Salinger is one of the more powerful figures of this century, but many would disagree, and the fact that the film constantly repeats the same photos and text over and over, weakens that claim. He did retain much of the mystique that he so carefully cultivated to the end, when he died in 2010. One does wonder what he would think of this film, which purports to be a tell-all production.
Salinger attempts to explain the complexities of the man’s personality and the qualities that make him a prominent 20th Century writer, but falls rather short of its goal. Nevertheless, I found it very interesting, in that much of it was new to me. Others who have followed and read Salinger more diligently will likely not have the same experience.