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Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ‘Don Jon’ takes on the stereotypical rom-com

Juan Cancio | Monday, October 14, 2013

This past Saturday, I was able to finally go to the movie theatre for the first time since I arrived on campus this semester. There were many films I wanted to see, but only one of them promised to be a lighthearted comedy and so I decided to watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new film “Don Jon”; it is the actor’s first attempt at starring, writing and directing a movie. 

“Don Jon” focuses on a young man as he goes through the process of transitioning from being a club-lurking player to a more mature version of himself that is actively trying to look for a meaningful loving relationship. This journey of growth takes Jon through the difficult process of trying to break away from his addiction to pornography and empty superficial sex. 

Although the film offers a multitude of jokes about masturbation, sex and the never-ending hunt for unadulterated sexual adventures, there’s much more to “Don Jon.” A deeper meaning can be found if you don’t let yourself be too distracted by the visceral onslaught of suggestive pseudo-pornographic images that compose an albeit large portion of the movie. 

It is understandable that Mr. Gordon-Levitt felt the need to use some of this graphic material, but at times there seems to be way too much of it in the movie. That having been said, maybe the whole point of including so much of it was to make it blatantly apparent that this character was struggling with a strong addiction that enjoyed an unrelenting grip over him. However, it did seem to distract from the overall experience of the movie. Without giving too much away, the journey from his shallow view of life to a deeper more meaningful perspective is obviously aided by a female counterpart; therein lies the more insightful aspect of the movie. 

The main character is forced to really look at himself for what he has truly become, and realize that he doesn’t know nearly as much about leading a good life than he previously thought. There are a few details of this movie that lead the audience to realize it is actually a criticism of certain aspects of contemporary society. 

The most obvious criticism of modern culture is the main character’s younger sister who is always featured texting and fiddling on her phone and not taking part in the real world: an obvious, yet truthful, representation of an unfortunate trend in today’s youth. 

Instead of leading the audience on the painfully overdone template of your basic romantic comedy, this movie offers an interesting reinvention of the genre. Not often is this genre used as a medium for criticism, but Gordon-Levitt definitely makes a solid attempt to have his movie prod at important issues. It was an enjoyable, funny ride that in the end gave us a mirror to view ourselves in. If you can bear open endings, I would suggest it for those looking to spend their time enjoying a funny, awkward experience with the rest of the South Bend moviegoers. 

Contact Juan Cancio at jcancio@nd.edu