The world of Don Jon is one of functions and variables.
Writer/director/star Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Jon Martello, a twenty-something pseudo-guido whose friends refer to him as “Don Jon” because it rhymes and is the name of the movie and because Jon has the uncanny ability to secure himself a new sexual partner each weekend. Despite the seemingly never-ending parade of women willing to sleep with him, however, Jon is never as satisfied as when he is consuming pornography on his Apple laptop, be it after an afternoon of cleaning his apartment or immediately following one of his weekly sexual conquests.
Both the movie and character Don Jon are reflections of a society that has slowly but surely quantified that marvelous biological wonder reproduction, leaving the disillusioned and sexually hyperactive in pursuit of the solutions to a series of complex social equations, rather than the fulfilling, meaningful experience intimacy with another human being has the potential to be.
Even Don Jon himself is an equation. As laid out in the beginning of the film Don Jon is little more than a carefully crafted cocktail of a persona Jon Martello wears out into the world:
Don Jon = Jon Martello + Gym + Pad + Bros + Sexual Contract + Church + Family
Sexual Contract: [(Masturbation + Porn + Sex out of wedlock) = (Sunday mass with family + Confession + Penance)], i.e., 0 = 0, i.e. a moral clean slate
Penance = (Amount of masturbation in a week)(Amount of sex out of wedlock in a week )(x), where x is a variable decided upon by a representative of the Catholic church
Sex out of wedlock = club + dime + eye contact + grinding + making out + cab ride + sexual contract
Dime = (Woman)(x), where “x” represents any numeral higher than 9 on a scale of 1-10 correlating to the perceived qualitative aesthetic of aforementioned variable “woman”
I own a calculator. I’ve checked the math.
Any aspect of love making that cannot be quantified (emotion, spirituality) is removed from the equation. In fact the most human the sexual mathematics of the world of Don Jon ever get is the relation of varying degrees of time and energy spent in pursuit of the aforementioned mathematical solution. That is to say a dime is worth the effort of taking her to coffee, lunch and dinner, whereas a less physically attractive woman is, accordingly, worth less effort, if any at all, or:
(Woman)(x) = (time)(x) + (effort)(x), where “x” is equal to a woman’s numerical rating on aforementioned scale
Every aspect of sex is a variable in one massive equation for Jon. Women, pull ups, prayers, all are angles added onto a many-sided polygon with the hopes that one day it will become a circle.
“O” – AM I RIGHT?
But much as no amount of angles can make a circle, no amount of mathematical finagling on Jon’s part ever yields a truly fulfilling solution from the equation that is his sex life. Don Jon is the story of the pursuit of that fulfillment amongst the backdrop of a world that seems to have forgotten it exists.
It’s an extremely personal and relatable movie that is at once very similar too and the polar opposite of one of Gordon-Levitt’s earlier starring vehicles, (500) Days of Summer. It’s a story about a sexual coming of age that entirely lacks the eye-rolling stupidity one would expect from “a story about a young man’s sexual coming of age.”
For a film about numbers and porn Don Jon has a lot of heart, inarguably due to Gordon-Levitt, whose writing, directing and acting are all on point.
The writing is superb; dialogue is entertaining, characters are fully realized and Jon’s journey unravels organically.
In Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut he manages to pull a full-on Affleck. Don Jon doesn’t feel like product of a film student. Precise, sterile shots follow Jon through his weekly conquests and porn sessions but as Jon’s character develops the movement and feel of the film develop alongside him.
In front of the camera it’s an eloquently acted film with Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore and Tony Danza in particular turning in commendable, lively performances.
Don Jon is a smartly written film with an intelligent and well-explored thesis, it’s a creatively shot film with great care put into framing, progression and cinematography and that Gordon-Levitt is directly responsible for all three facets of the film is a feat worthy of praise. Don Jon leaves you with a lot to consider, including when Gordon-Levitt will find his way to the director’s chair again.
And when we’re going to get a Nightwing Begins movie.