Thursday, September 26, 2013

Deconstructing Don Juan


A Jersey Boy “Don Jon”

By Skip Sheffield

Joseph Gordon-Levitt tells it like it is in his triple-threat directorial debut. “Don Jon.” It is not pretty. The truth often is not.
“Don Jon” is a contemporary retelling of the Don Juan myth of literature, theater and music. A “Don Juan’ is a master of seduction, licentious, stubborn and proud. He is also doomed to eternal damnation.
Jon Martello is the “Don Jon” character created by writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt and played by Gordon-Levitt as actor.
Jon lives comes from a blue collar family in New Jersey. Although he has his own nice apartment, Jon is still very close with his dad Jon, Sr. (Tony Danza) and mother Angela (Glenne Headley). He is less close with younger sister Monica (Brie Larson), who rarely looks up from her Smartphone. The family regularly gets together over noisy Italian dinners and Sunday mass at the local Catholic Church.
Jon is given his nickname by his best buddies, who admire his studliness and winning ways with women. Jon has a deep, dirty secret, however. He finds online pornography more stimulating than real women. No wonder he can love ‘em and leave ‘em.
Then Jon meets an absolute “10.” Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is beyond a scale of ten in her hotness. She has curves in all the right places, an absolutely beautiful face, and though she is no pushover, she is attracted to Jon.
Mom is overjoyed. Perhaps Jon will finally settle down with the right girl instead of settling for endless one-night stands.
It is true that Jon has never felt this way about a woman before. When Barbara begins to make noises about shaping up and improving his lot in life, Jon goes along. Commitment comes with strings. Sometimes they are more like ropes or chains, and Jon has a monkey on his back. It is a monkey that cannot live in Barbara's romantic fantasy dreams.
Jon Martello is a miserable excuse of a marriage prospect. He is all about habit, pleasure and surface appearances. He knows he can always be absolved of his sins at confession. Barbara is not a priest however, and when she finds out what Jon does behind her back, she recoils in horror and disgust.
As writer and director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt loves to make Gordon-Levitt the actor squirm. Jon is offered a kind of redemption when he befriends Esther (Julianne Moore), an older college classmate. Esther is a widow with boundless sorrow. She is also a real woman with compassion for immature Jon, but there are no quick, easy answers for Jon.
“Don Jon” shows how we objectify people and fail to realize and appreciate the joy of life. It is not a cheerful movie, but it does have some harsh, cutting truths that may be of help to other Don Juans of the world. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is brave to expose himself so willingly.

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