Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his writing and directing debut in Don Jon, which had its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this week. Gordon-Levitt also stars in the film as main character Jon, a heartbreaker and porn addict. Despite Jon’s ability to sleep with at least one new girl a week, he just isn’t sexually satisfied. Instead, he has to turn to porn – obsessively, and up to 30 times a week – in order to be fulfilled. Along comes Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), a “dime” that Jon considers changing his ways for. While the movie claims to be a comedy, it actually has some serious undertones about friendship, dating and life that add depth to the story. Herewith, five lessons I learnt about love:
Sex is Almost Always Better When You Wait
As Jon’s sister points out (a little too late), Barbara obviously has an agenda: she wants to get married. From the moment Barbara meets Jon, she plays the game. She kisses him, but not too much. She is the ultimate tease, giving him a list of things he has to do before they can have sex, including meeting one another’s friend groups and families and going back to school. Jon complies, and is ultimately rewarded. After so much effort and anticipation, he brags to his buddies about how amazing sex with one person can be, especially when you wait for the right moment. And he seems to really believe it.
…Except When it Isn’t
Fast forward in the story. Barbara finds out about Jon’s porn addiction and kicks him to the curb. He rebounds with Esther (Julianne Moore), an older student in his night class. They hook up in the back of her Jeep after class one night, and sex with Esther is way better than sex with Barbara. Esther teaches Jon that the way to kick his porn addiction is to learn how to really connect with another human being.
Never Ditch Your Friends for a Girl/Guy
Jon becomes so obsessed with Barbara that he basically cuts his two best friends out of his life. But, when things fall apart, he has no one to turn to. Jon learns the hard way he always needs to make his friends a priority, even if he is in a relationship (they’re usually the ones who are there for the long haul).
Tell Your Family the Truth About Your Relationship
Jon’s family is Italian, and his mother fits the stereotype. She is as obsessed with finding Jon a good girl to marry as he is with porn. When Jon brings Barbara home to meet his parents, his mother is in heaven and is willing to overlook any flaw she may have. But, as the relationship begins to unravel, Jon lies and tells his family everything is still perfect. This ends up putting a strain on his relationship with his parents, as they don’t understand why he won’t work harder to keep them together. If Jon had been honest about Barbara’s shortcomings and their obvious incompatibility, his family could have offered much-needed advice.
You Don’t Always Have to Plan the Future
When Jon is dating Barbara, there is constant pressure to plan their future. He goes back to school to earn his degree to get a better job to support their future family. They fight about stupid decisions they will have to make if they ever live together (even though none of it matters now). But, with Esther, they don’t discuss the future – they simply enjoy the present. And sometimes, that’s just more fun.