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Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new film, “Don Jon”, sparks new questions about romance and intimacy.

Noah Robiner

In his debut film as a writer and director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt succeeds in asking and answering new questions about modern intimacy and gender roles.

Jon Martello, better known as Don Jon (Gordon-Levitt)  by his friends, is a bartending, 20-something, guy’s guy who only cares about the simple stuff in life: his body, apartment, car, family, church, friends, females, and of course, his pornography.

He’s known by his friends as Don Jon, or sometimes just “The Don”, for his ability to pick up attractive women, or “10’s” every weekend at the club. His charm is tested when he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansonn) who turns down his pickup, and instead pushes him to pursue a relationship with her. Unlike his other relationships, the two don’t become intimate for the first month of their relationship. As their relationship develops, viewers see that they both have addictions– Jon to his porn, and Barbara, to her romantic comedies.

Don Jon is the first movie to bring the effects of pornography and media’s portrayal of romance to light. We see how Jon’s addiction to porn, forces him to make sex a fantasy, while Barbara’s buy-in to gender roles, makes her fantasize what a real relationship is. The movie perfectly shows this when,  at one point, Barbara is out shopping for drapes with Jon, and Jon tells Barbara that he’s gonna go pick up some cleaning supplies. Barbara holds him back and tells him “Don’t talk about vacuuming in front of me, it’s not sexy”.

The movie cleverly portrays the stereotypes of the Jersey lifestyle with caricaturic portrayals of its characters. Its use of clichés pokes fun at the romantic comedy industry while showing the ridiculousness of such ideas.

When first debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie was rated “NC-17”, which has since been lowered to “R” due to  graphic scenes of pornography, nudity, and swearing.

Among other things, these ironic portrayals, make it hard to peg a genre on to Don Jon, and that is exactly what the movie wants. Moments of wit and humor, romance and intimacy, heartbreak and growth, create a new genre of their own.

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