Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon is the ultimate side-project film.
I don’t mean that that to degrade what he has done, nor suggest that it wasn’t given its fair time to produce. It was a good movie; and it didn’t feel at any part like it cut corners to get going.
Well, that’s not entirely true. The reasons I think it felt like a side-project:
Time: The move is 83 minutes long. At least 5 to 10 of those minutes were taken up in shots of either the church, Don Jon running up the steps to the church, and the last part of the confessions he gives 5 times during the time.
Superficiality: Before I get meta on this — I mean really the superficiality of both the topics tackled and the characters.
Topics: sex, pornography, relationships. Each is examined, but not in such a depth where it both hypothesizes an answer and then works to understand or refute that. In casual terms, it doesn’t go through the motions, or the storytelling scientific method perhaps.
The character of Don Jon certainly goes into pornography — but just in terms of himself (a point, perhaps). There’s no point where the question is even offered of what pornography really is. Where it begins, where it ends, and what it means on a level beyond just one man’s experience with it. None of this is bad, per se, but it just offers a cursory examination of the topic — and this went for love, relationships, seflishness, etc…
Characters: much the same, the characters were all very half-seen. There was not a lot of depth happening; or the camera allowing us to dive in. Each character presented his/her catalyst to the plot and nothing more. This was almost parodied by Jon’s sister, who only looks up from her cellphone once the whole movie. (Again, topic: the younger generation not peeling their eyes away from their smartphones. Very cursory examination). But his mother — she has simple wants. His father, he is simple (though probably the most subtle performance). Jon is purportedly simple from the beginning. And his two female foils each play their extreme too.
Now, quickly meta. The idea behind the movie is that superficiality can ruin you if you let it. I don’t want to put it beyond anyone that a movie about superficiality in that respect would be superficial in its fronts as well. That could be. It would be wonderfully meta-tastic. But I just don’t see it.
There’s a chance to read into all of this as some kind of minimalist representation of something more. Julianne Moore’s character opposite Scarlett Johannson’s. The ending of ‘lovemaking’ instead of sex. But, really, when I think on it, I wonder if the intent was to keep it basic. It’s a side-project film; born perhaps out of JGL’s desire to look into what porn does to men and not wanting to dive into that topic the way, say, your psychoanalyst would want to. Taking that long Freud-dive off the high board.
Good film. Worth the watch. It takes all it brought with it when it ends. and that’s okay sometimes.