On a scale of 1 to XXX


Don Jon

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson; directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the sexiest). That’s how Jon and his friends in the film Don Jon repetitively rate the women they ogle and hope to take home for a tryst from bars, and how Jon rates the level of arousal he experiences from the multitude of porn clips he watches every day on his computer.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon.
Photo courtesy of Relativity Media

There. That’s the film in a nutshell. I hesitate to say more, but if I must I might as well invoke the same rating system as the movie’s characters. So, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 producing the most “cinematic arousal” with what’s on the screen), here’s how it would rank on the following aspects:

Embarrassment (9.75)


This ranks high on the “cinematic arousal” scale not because of the subject matter, which is embarrassing enough, not because of the plethora of snippets of porn clips, which are surgically edited but you still get the idea, and not because of the salaciously prurient language, which is detailed and graphic. No, it’s because of the embarrassment that one feels for the actors having to play these characters. They are cartoonish, exaggerated and superficially one-note. I squirmed in my seat having to watch the kid from “3rd Rock from the Sun” talk about how much he disfavors the missionary position. I hid my head in my hands while enduring the way his delicate, strongly religious mother vacantly and submissively endures the flurry of f-bombs barked by the dad from “Who’s the Boss” at the dinner table. And I pulled at my collar while being subjected to the complete silence of the younger sister who played the cute daughter in “Raising Dad” and “The United States of Tara” while she does nothing but stare lustfully at texts on her smartphone. Boy, is my face red!

Porn Addiction (1.6)


I wasn’t expecting a documentary-style explication of this malady, but the basis for Jon’s Internet porn addiction is just... well it’s just not forthcoming. He says he’s addicted because he “loses himself” on the Internet, which he can’t seem to do with real life women. Hmmm, do you suppose there may be more deep-seated psychological issues here, like low self-esteem, a belligerent father and submissive mother? It’s not clear from this film as it makes the whole thing into a plot device for perfunctory conflicts and high school snickering. It’s possible it also could be due to our cultural objectification of women and human flesh in general, but that’s sublimated. Yawn.

Obsessively Chewing Gum and Jersey Accents (this one goes to 11.0)


One woman that Jon meets at the bar and with whom he decides to try to have a longer-term, steady relationship (uh, maybe because she denies him immediate sex, so that must mean she is different and worthy of old-fashioned “dating”?), proceeds to flagrantly chew gum the whole time she is on the screen, even while eating pasta. Is that some sort of sexual repression thing? And she, and everyone else, tawks wid such aw-ggressively z’aggerated, you know, Jersey accents that I felt like an honorary goombah!

Misandry/Misogyny (7.2)


Facially, the movie suggests that porn ruins men’s ability to have deep, affectionate sex and cuddly relationships. And that men are nothing but hormonally pumped up hound dogs. And leering, lecherous loudmouth louts. And obsessed with the muscularity of their bodies (Jon works out religiously). But digging deeper it’s clear that it’s not men that’s the problem. That’s right dear potential viewer, it’s not his fault that he’s addicted to porn or the way he is, it’s women’s fault! You see, if they could just capitulate to all of Jon’s various sexual appetites and positions, which porn apparently tells him he must want (although the film does not make this point explicitly), he would be content with flesh and blood versions. Gee, it seems that women apparently haven’t bothered to read Dan Savage’s sex advice column (“Savage Love”) and thereby resolved to be GGG (good, giving and game). Shame.

Romance Addiction (5.0)


If men are addicted to and twistedly influenced by porn, then (so sayeth this movie) women are similarly afflicted by rosy lovey-dovey fantasies imparted by Hollywood “chick-flicks.” Jon’s steady girl is enamored with them and believes that this is how men are ‘supposta act — make her the center of attention, do what she wants, lavish her with goodies, and so on. So, you see, men and women both have their preconceptions about sex and relationship stemming from cultural edicts. That and because the film feels some compulsion to be an equal opportunity condemner. Oh, and because this exceedingly simplistic dichotomy makes for easy plot conflicts, resolutions and discoveries. Meh.

Religious Absolution (5.0)


Jon confesses his various sexual sins and exploits, in precisely documented detail, to his priest every week, but always gets the same penance. Is this supposed to suggest that the Catholic Church is agonistic, or that all sexual sins are amateurishly indistinguishable? Or maybe that the Church has its own issues here? Who knows as the whole thing is treated as a dirty joke.

Internet Literacy (?)


Jon is a guy who keeps his laptop computer on all the time and right at the head of his bed clearly indicating that he is of the generation where all of life revolves around what spews forth from being connected 24/7. As such, he’s ostensibly conversant in everything digital. So, why does he not know about something called a “browser history” and the corresponding need to purge it after telling your girlfriend that you stopped surfing for Internet porn? I guess if the Internet has taken all the mystery out of sex, there’s still other mysteries to ponder.

Doug Young is the 10.0 film critic for The Colorado Statesman. He also works as a senior policy advisor for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.