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Saturday, February 1, 2014

"Don Jon" DVD Review: For the Love of Porn


While there's been an outpouring of accolades for Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's effective modern romcom (which he also wrote and direct), some audiences lament on how the film presents the idea of a love substitute, the notion that one could replace love for something seemingly so inordinate and unreal like porn. Others fear that this romantic supplement is our future.

Though both sentiments are fair, I think some viewers might have overlooked the idea that the film is a metaphor for the current state of relationships, both platonic or otherwise. Porn has already been a strong influence on our sexual relationships and in some instances has obstructed their progression. Even the dependence on digital technology has seeped into our relationships. When you see a couple (or even a group of friends) sitting in silence at a restaurant table sending text messages to other people, or happen upon a man--or woman--who's in a committed relationship excitedly peering at naughty sites on the web (like Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon), you realize how easy it is to get distracted from love. Porn--like the digital world--is convenient, available 24/7 and is satisfaction guaranteed with exactly no fuss. Plus, any chance to get out of having to put in effort to participate in a verbal conversation or generate feelings while fornicating with your significant other is these days seen as worth the sacrifice of losing something as delicate and tumultuous as love.

But can porn or technology ever take the place of love? Or, perhaps more importantly, can love take the place of these crutches we've come to depend on in our modern society? Well, I'd say they could co-exist, and even enhance one another. Depending on the couple, one without the other could make for a boring relationship.The interesting thing about Don Jon is that Gordon-Levitt's character, after his girlfriend Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) caught him at his computer with his pants down (so to speak), vows that he won't ever surf porn sites as long as they're together. Of course, he'd say anything to keep her fury at bay (we learn later that Barbara is a bourgeoisie control freak). He still continues to fuel his 30+ times a week porn addiction while also maintaining a stable relationship with his main squeeze.

So what's the big deal, right? Don seems to be able to balance the two entities, winning at life and becoming the envy of all his friends. Well, the issue comes when the dependence on technology at its most advanced state supersedes the "real world" to a point when one begins to assimilate the digital world as a place where you can get the comparable amount of physical, mental and emotional satisfaction. Which is when face to face accessibility is completely abandoned. While this doesn't happen in Don's case, this is Barbara's fear. She feels that if Don is so invested in porn, how can he be committed to her? What does that say about their relationship if he feels the need to embellish it with porn?

It could just be the difference in female and male perspectives in relationships, which makes Don Jon that more fascinating to discuss. What happens when a person commits himself so fully to another that when he is left without her he becomes emotionally crippled, unable to identify love until he has fallen into it? Once Barbara leaves Don, he tries to go back to his playboy life but with less enthusiasm. He ultimately ends up falling for Esther (Julianne Moore), a fellow student at his school who comes into his life without an actual pursuit. Though Moore is effective in the role, she does seem a bit tacked on to the story. Don's reaction to her is not enough to fully comprehend her significance and makes for an incomplete ending to the film.

But at its strongest, Don Jon is breezy, provocative and definitely makes for an interesting discourse of sex and relationships. Check it out.

Rating: B- (*** out of *****)

1 comments:

Dankwa Brooks said...

I really liked this film and liked the fact that it was an ADULT film that didn't get watered down for a PG-13 audience. I also thought it was a good directing debut for JGL.

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