Romantic comedy about how movie relationships are fake presents fake movie relationships as realistic

I have to imagine the first meeting on the set of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new movie, Don Jon, went something like this-

Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and stars as Jon Martello, a playboy who falls in love at first sight with Barbara Sugarland (Scarlett Johansson). Martello and Sugarland have a lot of sex because that’s the type of thing you get to do when you’re the director. But Sugarland must compete for Martello’s attention with his porn addiction.


The best microcosm of this film is a scene when Martello and Sugarland are first dating. Sugarman refuses to let him into her apartment for sex, but brings him to orgasm by dry humping him outside the door.

Ostensibly, the romance and “being ready” and “waiting till the right time” is important, but Martello still gets his rocks off. There’s a comedic shot later where all his pants have stains on them, but what he’s really ejaculating on is the moral of the story.

Don Jon does a lot of interesting things. As advertised, it equates porn and men’s inflated expectations of sex to chick flicks and women’s inflated expectations of romance. And, as advertised, it contrasts sex with real love.

The problem is the only way characters express love is through special eye-contacty sex. The movie about a man confused by media portrayals of love and sex is itself a part of the paradigm that confused him. It’s supposed to teach us that love is about more than getting off with the same “dime” more than once, but instead it reinforces that idea while also reinforcing inaccurate beliefs about healthy and unhealthy sexual expression.

This movie is its own enemy. And it’s not a matter of Gordon-Levitt being hip and ironic. Don Jon genuinely doesn’t realize its own hypocracy.

Don Jon lists itself as a comedy as well, and it’s funny enough, but most of the comedic bits are out of place.

Running gags with road rage and penance aren’t related to the rest of the film and are just filler.

Also, whenever Marletto is masturbating, he’s staring directly at the camera and it’s really creepy.

If you want to watch a movie about Joseph Gordon-Levitt learning that relationships aren’t like the movies, stick to (500) Days of Summer. It’s much more delightful and doesn’t fall into the trap of espousing the stereotypes it wants to reject.

Don Jon is an all right comedy, but a flawed and boring love story. Gordon-Levitt probably knows better.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. When the federal government shuts down, he keeps going. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back later in the week for a review of Rush.

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