A New Way of Looking at Sex: My Thoughts on Don Jon

I highly recommend the new film Don Jon, which marks the directorial debut of well known actor Joseph Gordon Levitt.

Levitt plays the lead character, Don Jon (with the obvious reference to Don Juan,) a devout Italian Catholic guy from New Jersey who is a gym rat, has dinner with his family every Sunday after church, and spends Saturday nights clubbing with his “boys” and finding a random woman to lure home to his pad to have sex.

Oh yeah, he also has a rabid addiction to internet pornography. This addiction is the central issue the character must deal with in the film and come to understand how it is affecting his relationships with women.

And while this sounds like it could be an episode of Jersey Shore, there is something more to this character that we come to understand toward the end of the film, about his vulnerability as a man.

Both of the primary women characters in the movie are played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson as the “10” he meets in the club and who becomes his girlfriend; and Julianne Moore, a woman damaged by life’s circumstances who Don Jon meets in a class when he goes back to school. Tony Danza also gets a star turn as Jon’s father, and although Danza’s performance is spot on, the character is written as an “macho Italian old-fashioned NJ guy” sterotype.

What I liked about the film was its unflinching look at how a guy like Don Jon relies on pornography, despite the fact that he’s having regular sex with real women and how he explains (in voice overs) that he still believes the pornography is better than the women he is having sex with (since real life cannot compete with the perfection of a fantasy on a screen.)

And what Don Jon finds out, in the end, is that the new way of looking at sex is the old way of looking at sex: it means most when it’s with someone you care about. And while that may sound like a sappy hollywood ending, I assure you its not.

In the new world, sex is about caring, but it doesn’t come with the trappings of fairy tale weddings, babies and perfection… it comes through a deeper emotional understanding which means Jon’s giving up the one-sided nature of being a voyeur in his own life.

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