Don Jon or How we conceive masculinity – A film review

There are days when you are in the mood to go to the movies and watch some light entertainment like comedies, or romantic movies. There is nothing wrong with it, in fact, it is necessary to unload all that stress you built up during the week. Although at first sight we got a somewhat regular romantic comedy, Don Jon (2013) is more than a simple story about him and her, it is a deep reflection on relationships in our current society.

Don Jon the womanizer

The plot is really simple: Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an Italian American, who lives an unstressed life. His routine revolves around his work as a bartender, his friends, his family, his church, his workout, and of course, his… porn. However, this is not a pitiful nerd looking in porn what he can't find anywhere else. He is in fact a Don Juan, a ladies man wit a dating black book and a plan. Nevertheless, he prefers porn to real women. His life comes to an end as he knows it when he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), a hot woman, but a little hard to please in regard to relationships. This is when Jon begins questioning everything about what he knows until that moment. She pushes him to do a lot of things he haven't considered before, because he feels just fine about his life how it was, like for example, pursuing a college degree, or simply watching “romantic movies”. During his classes, he meets Esther (Julianne Moore), a weird and sort of secretive woman, who will add more turmoil to his now upside-down life.

This movie has a great cast with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, (500) Days of Summer) as a cartoonish “Guido”, who is obsessed with his body, and sex, Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as a control-freak mega babe, Julianne Moore (Children of Men, Game Change) in the role of an awkward classmate, and Tony Danza (Taxi, Who's the Boss?) as Jon's severe, and faultfinding father. Although, all these characters sound like a mix for a rather light comedy, they play together really well, opening the space to a more serious drama, and reflecting thus about Jon's life, not only as an individual, but also how he sees himself, as well as others see him as a man.

Their roles are in that aspect brilliant, and they represent a dysfunctional society full of false values based on patriarchate, the cult of a hedonistic-physical image, and the empire of the individuality above all that ends triggering a complex crafted, but deceptive well-being. In that way, all of them completes a broader picture like a big puzzle, and the script does it marvelously, and with a lot of grace. Probably the performance in general are not that great, but they aren't that bad either, and moreover it is functional: It serves to the purpose of opening our eyes to profound societal issues through Jon's problem with women. The characters even sound awfully familiar to us, making some parallelisms sometimes with our own lives, or at least giving you that “aha!” moment when you remember someone close to you, behaving similar to one of those characters.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's debut as a director in cinema augurs him a bright future in the industry, however, this is not the first time he directs anyway, but this project is without any doubt one of his greatest steps in the right direction. I really can't wait to see more of Gordon-Levitt's works. Keep them coming pal!

Music, and sound effects work pretty nice, although they are more functional than anything else. However, they give life to Don Jon's doings, and it is a big part of the movie's fun. This was of course edited using some hip-hop like scenes, making this movie a cool example of what can be achieved with some ingenious ideas.

Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon Levitt at Toronto Film Festival 2013. Picture by GabboT CC BY-SA 2.0 1)

Deconstructing the false image of Masculinity

Many aspects of the movie are clearly a criticism to the shallowness in the way that our western society depicts masculinity, and how some people react to it, specially –but not exclusively– men. The open stereotypical characters are not accidental, like Jon and his “macho” friends, ready for the hunting every night, the overly preoccupied father, who reacts irate about whatever his son does or says, Jon's worried mother, pushing him to involve in a more serious relationship, and Jon's manipulative and superficial girlfriend, who can't stand a man that doesn't take care of her whims, because… that's what men do, right? And this is of course, just a fraction of the many facets in Jon's life. The social expectations for Jon and what is demanded from him is painted with fine strokes of cynicism and sarcasm. In that sense, a dark humor atmosphere surrounds the script, portraying Don Jon, not only as a victim of his own “success”, but mocking his wild excesses. So, he's not the typical loser, he is shown as guy, who gets everything that he wants, and succeed in getting it. Still, he is not happy, but he thinks he is, until he must face himself, and his life choices.

The movie itself is like a dance, where every piece fall in its place to eventually solve the mystery of Jon. For that reason, Don Jon is a very clever movie, depicting him as a honest guy that looks for love, although, he doesn't recognize it, darn, he just can't recognize it anyway, making him look more naked, but truthful to his nature at the end.

This movie somewhat works as a comedy as well as a drama, so if you love romantic-comedies, this one will give you a laugh or two. If you like profound movies, this surely will fill your mind with strong ideas, confronting some of your old behaviors, in a funny, and unconventional way, and giving you at the end a smile. To those, who don't mind watching some “edited” porn-scenes, or even feel comfortable in presence of some porn-star nudity, you will have a great time watching this movie. I really recommend you to go and see it.



GabboT (September 10th 2013). Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon Levitt at the Premiere of Don Jon, 2013 Toronto Film Festival. (Uploaded by tm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], undefined. Picture Available On-line in

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