What 'Don Jon' Can Teach Us About Relationships (Besides That Joseph Gordon-Levitt Is Adorable In Any Body Type)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars and makes his screenwriting and directing debut in this week's Don Jon, which will hit theaters on Friday, Sept. 27. The film follows its namesake, Jon Martello (Levitt), known by his friends as "The Don" or "Don Jon" because of his track record with women. Martello goes to church and eats dinner with his family every Sunday, goes to the gym to do his penance (he goes to confession every week), goes out with his boys to pick up girls, cleans his apartment with OCD-like precision, and watches porn every single day (most days more than once). So basically he's a normal, Italian-American, 20-something guy living in New Jersey.
After so many years of having to put little-to-no work in with women, he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), who is labeled immediately as a "dime" (Jon and his friends use a rating system whenever they're out). He pursues her, because she's the only girl to turn him down in years, and ends up thinking they're in love. Barbara's hot and she knows and she uses it to essentially change just about everything about Jon before she finally breaks up with him because he's not able to give up his porn. In a film that explores multiple relationships: with ourselves, with others romantically, with others emotionally, Don Jon lets us take away a few lessons:
Loving Someone Doesn't Mean Doing Everything They Say
Barbara occupies the upper hand in the relationship from the very beginning because Jon is so desperate to sleep with her. She tells Jon that his job as a bartender isn't good enough so he needs to go back to school, using him taking a night class as a bargaining chip for sex, and he does it. Barbara also decides that he shouldn't be cleaning his apartment for himself, even though he enjoys it, and refuses to allow him to buy Swiffer pads while they're out shopping together because it's "embarassing", so Jon doesn't buy them. She seems to think that love means Jon changing into her ideal version of him and Jon seems to think that being in love with her means doing whatever she asks. Which is why when he can't give up porn like she asks, they break up, because neither of them knows how to compromise at that point. Granted that she catches him watching it once and asks him to never do it again, to which he promises he won't, but then continues to do it anyway when she's not around. But still, you can still love someone without doing every single thing they ask.
1) Relationships Are Not One-Sided
Other people have needs is the main lesson Jon's widowed classmate, Esther (Julianne Moore), teaches him about sex and also relationships. His expectations are as unrealistic as Barbara's in the intimacy department, based solely on his one-night-stands and what he's seen on porn videos: that it's all about him all the time. She explains that to lose yourself in another person is to give up thinking about yourself. So basically, you need to distribute evenly how much you care about your expectations and how much you care about your significant other's expectations. You're wise as hell, Julianne Moore (she also totally rocks at being the older woman).
2) Don't Lie, Just Don't Do It
The whole debacle of their relationship and break-up could've been avoided if Jon just told the truth the first time. It wasn't the first time he'd watched porn and yes, he'd probably watch it again because he enjoys it. They might have been able to compromise, if he wasn't so manipulated that he felt the need to lie. Also, he wouldn't have had to worry about clearing his history. Lying is bad, everyone, just don't do it. He also could've just kept his promise to never watch again. Both are good options.
3) Sometimes It's Not Too Soon To Meet The Family
Jon's mother, Angela (Glenne Headly), loved Barbara because she was the first girl he ever brought home for her to meet. Jon's dad, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza), creepily liked Barbara because again, ScarJo is really attractive so there's that. But Jon's sister, Monica (Brie Larson), was able to call out her bullshit and her agenda right away, even though she waited until the end of the movie and after they'd already broken up to say so. At least she helped him get over his guilt. Sometimes you just need someone else's perspective, I guess.
It's worth noting that Jon had never been in a serious relationship prior to meeting Barbara, well, except for his serious relationship with porn and himself. She might not be as much of a manipulating, man-eater like she's made out to be by his lack of relationship development skills. Jon bows down because he feels like he has to to keep Barbara happy. Then again, it's their failed relationship (and Esther) that forces him to grow out of his "porn addiction" and get more in tune with the sexual needs of his partners, rather than just being stuck on his own. Thus, making him a partner in a relationship and in bed, yay!
In case you missed it, here's the trailer for Don Jon: