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Sundance 2013: ‘Don Jon’ paints grim picture of doomed romance

January 22nd, 2013 Posted in Arts and Life

By Katie Swain

PARK CITY—Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, “Don Jon’s Addiction,” premiered at Sundance Film Festival on Friday and was bought up by Sunday. Gordon-Levitt not only directed the film, he also wrote and starred in the racy and unique romantic comedy, which focuses on unrealistic expectations we have for our relationships, and how they can destroy any chance of real, honest love.

Sundance-2013-LogoSmall“There are so many romantic comedies,” Gordon-Levitt said. “But this one is unique. I wanted to tell a story of love, and how people objectifying each other get in the way of that.”

Gordon-Leavitt created and plays Don Jon as a New Jersey ladies’ man who loves only a couple of things: his body, his pad, his family, his friends, his car, his church, his ladies and, oh yes, his porn. Despite being able to bring home countless beautiful women any night of the week, Don Jon doesn’t get as much satisfaction from his real life relationships as he does from his laptop ladies.


“Don Jon’s Addiction” creator and star Joseph Gordon-Leavitt talks about his dissonant film at Sundance on Friday. Katie Swain photo

“The character that I’ve put forward here is a guy who objectifies everything—every single thing in his life,” Gordon-Levitt said. “Everything is like a thing, an object on a shelf for his consumption. Everything has to meet up to his expectations, whether he’s doing the dishes, cleaning his apartment, or having sex. Everything lines up to this expectation, this checklist he has.”

When Don Jon meets Barbara, (Scarlett Johansson) a perfect 10 “dime,” he finally seems to be ready to put in the work for a successful, long-term, functional relationship. Ironically, Barbara is just as unrealistic as Don Jon, but in a very different way. Her obsession with romantic comedies, and the Prince Charming-like men portrayed in them, immediately prompts her to start trying to remake Don Jon—asking him to take night classes, get a housemaid and work a job more respectable than a bartender, attempting to cram him into the mold of her perfect man.

Don Jon actually tries to be the man Barbara wants him to be, but he can’t give up his porn, nor can Barbara ever give him the same level of fulfillment his porn does. His small steps forward and then in reverse as he works on his addiction are documented in a series of hilarious weekly confessional scenes as Don Jon confesses his sexual sins to a Catholic priest.


Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt’s relationship is doomed.

While Barbara and Don Jon’s relationship is clearly doomed, Don Jon starts to discover what he has been missing in his surprisingly honest and forthright, fellow night class student Esther (Julianne Moore).

In an audience Q&A session following the movie’s premier, concern was raised that “Don Jon’s Addiction” might be too raw and explicit for it to succeed commercially (Huffington Post calls it “raunchy”), even though Relativity Media has just bought the movie’s U.S. distribution rights.

But Gordon-Leavitt assured the audience that great care had been taken to ensure that the film did not contain anything more explicit than a rated R movie would.

“It actually feels like you see more than you are,” he said.

Overall, “Don Jon’s Addiction” is funny and honest, but can be a little loud and brash.


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