“Don Jon” A review by Alan Farrell


Directed by: 
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and written by him, too, also himself).  Starring:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson (and
a serious bee-sting lips, beachball hips woof), Glenn Headly, Tony Danza, Marianne
Moore (the butt naked in Big Lebowski
Marianne Moore… no, wait a minute, that’s the poetess Marianne Moore of
fee-male poet fame like name two of her poems, yeah, that’s what I thought… This
is Julianne Moore… ah, same thin except Marianne Moore didn’t show her but in The Big Lebowski, far as I know).  Set
Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Production
Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  New
Jersey Accents: 
Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Screenplay
Adaptation from the
Short Story by
Leo (“The Situation”) Tolstoy: 

Hey.  I’m dozing
through a Faculty meeting when briefly the fog dissipates long enough for me to
hear an outraged fee-male professor inveigh against the vestigial presence of
the syllable “man” in “emancipate: 
“Lincoln freed men and women,” she declares.  As the Classics professor rolls his eyes
and  gurgles of despair rise from his gorge,
the Chaplain piously offers in consolation that “not all instances of the
syllable ‘man’ derive from the male… for instance “chairman,” where the ‘man’
is from ‘manus, ‘hand’ in Latin.”  Beati
pauperes spiritu. 

And that brings us to “masturbate” (Latin “mastus,” “poultry”;
Latin “turbare,” “strangle”). And that brings us, by commodious vicus, to Don Jon. 
Critics debate whether the “Don” refers to the Don Juan of operatic fame
(oh, yeah… name two arias from it, yeah, that’s what I thought) or the other “Don,”
of Don Corleone “sei un uomo” fame. 
Don’t matter much.  Both of them
happening in New Jersey, the freshly refound Eden of teevee and cineemah:  Jersey
Girl, Garden State, Jersey Shore, Gigli
(I think… if it’s not set in New
Jersey, should be).  Teasers already
alerted us to the dubious premise, that the eponymous protagonist of the same
name, him too, suffers from an addiction to what everyone seems determined to
call ”porn” these days and this primarily over his laptop (so to speak… lap
top?  Laptop?  Whap!  Sorry
I hadda do that, but you fotched up with the look again).  The HTRL (or whatever the flock it is) is pornhub.com in case you’re looking (and
be careful on account of it’s an actual site/sight… or so I heard). 

We’re reliably informed that “all guys do it” though whether
“it” is scanning pornography or strangling the above poultry or both remain
unspecified elements of the indictment. 
The implicit “addiction,” anything but subtle and the refuge of any
weak-willed simpleton these days (“I’m an addict… whatcha gonna do?”) becomes
even less subtle in the proposed alternate title to the film, Don Jon’s Addiction, in case you missed
it, you dummy, though it eventuates that there’s another and possibly more
tragic addiction here, that of the breathtaking Barbara (thank God it’s not
Barbra) Sugarman (Zuckermann) for romance and the fluffy trappings of the ewige Weibliche (German for “butt that
would stop a clock”).  Curiously, the
second specification seems to be the more serious with opprobrium appearing,
best I can figure at any rate, falling rather on Sugarman for her naiveté and
disposition to idyll (or idle or idol, all of them pronounced the same and mean
essentially same thing).


Story is that Don Jon Martello (“hammer” in Italian, if you
catch my drift), a transparent egoist (and onanist) lives for himself:  his family, his church (he’s an RC and
piously declares his sins at Confession, racking up the Hail Marys and Our Fathers
then knocking them out as he does reps in his gym.  He’s got a guy car and a guy pad and snags
the hottest fee-males at his guy bar, identifying prospectives by their umph or
their umph umphs (either of which could stop a clock), the very aptest of whom
rate a “dime,” in his lingo.  Sadly, once
back at his place and after what for anyone else would be satisfying sex, Don
Jon sneaks out of bed to pop open his lap (top) and engage in what we’ll call
for a better word:  ipsism (Latin “ipse,”
“carrot”).  Finally he hauls in the
diadem of the crown, Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), whom his lout of an
Old Man spots as Jewish right off though Mom (Glenn Headly) appreciates her
manifest domesticity).  Don Jon duly
seduces (or is it t’other way around) and then relinquishes her afterward to
gratify his lap (top). 


She’s the one, he decides. 
Things go along well enough till she catches him at it.  Outraged, she gives him one chance to reform
(didn’t do much good when Father Murphy tried, but…).  Don Jon can’t seem to shake it, though, (urf
urf!), and tumbles into recidivism (Latin “reciduus,” “donkey,” and “vitiare,”
“flagellate”).  Caught in flog-rante (urf urf!), he watches her
depart his life forever, merciless fidelity to a dream of human relation.  As this drama plays out, howsomever, another
character enters the arena, Esther, a burnt-out, pot-sucking, still-comely
(niche pretty much staked out by Julianne Moore) older woman, classmate of
Jon’s in the night classes he’s agreed to take for Barabara’s sake, part of her
dream, not his.  Esther spots Jon’s lap
(top) in action and offers him erotica in place of  “porn,” becoming a whore-goddess-bunkbuddy
and ultimately initiating him to a different kind of sex where—wait for it—“you
lose yourself,” in the “other.”

Don Jon (us, of course) learns something. You’re free to
figure out what:  You might think the
tsk-tsking should direct itself at the self-absorbed Jon though it’s the
remorseless Barbara whom we seem invited to take in execration, the both of
them, I guess, in thrall to unreal expectations of human communion, she more
deluded than he?  “She has an agenda,”
announces the voice of objectivity unexpectedly.  The horror, the horror.  Well, hell… that Johansson girl certainly
does have an agenda, and one would stop a clock, too.   I like Gordon-Levitt and highly recommend
his films Brick and Premium Rush, both excellent and little
noticed since his breakout in Ten Things
I Hate About You
(you can keep Blooper).  Don Jon,
though, just doesn’t make it in this reviewer’s um, er… view.  Just too, um, er… heavy-handed, one might


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14 Responses to “Don Jon” A review by Alan Farrell

  1. The Twisted Genius says:

    Four years of studying latin at the hands of the Jesuits and now the sage Mr. Farrell provides another illuminating lesson. I will be forever grateful.

  2. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think in rural Brazil the youth did that to geese.

  3. Fred says:

    With all the poultry references one would think there would be a photo of that statue from the Louvre of the boy strangling the goose, or foie gras.
    Here’s to wishing we were on that Johansson girl’s agenda. What a way to start the weekend.

  4. Medicine Man says:

    You handled this review brilliantly, Mr. Farrell. Truly gripping.

  5. Basilisk says:

    I worship at the linguistic fount of all knowledge, but surely, Don Jon was spanking the monkey, n’est-ce pas?
    Another case where the review is way better than the movie, except for Ms Johansson, and by the way, Ms Moore ain’t half bad either. Bravo, Alan.

  6. LeaNder says:

    Fred, you got into a trap. But consider that the innocent, as the female prof, may be poor in spirit occasionally. His wonderful etymology may well pick up on the issue of the first paragraph. At least it follows it. 😉
    This is online dictionary is not always perfect but it occasionally helps.

  7. LeaNder says:

    Oops, maybe not. Sounds like an interesting film nevertheless, and maybe there is even strangling scene, although the wiki plot does not tell us about it. Personally I have no taste for S/M. So I better consider I may be wrong in that context.
    I’ll store the comments about the multi-talent that did it. For whatever reason the combination of director and script writer attracts me for quite some time now. Often less disappointing movie experiences.

  8. Charles I says:

    Hi Alan. As usual, I couldn’t read without spilling my titters on the ground. . .

  9. Paul Escobar says:

    Mr. Farrell,
    I thought I was the only one who liked ‘Premium Rush’!
    It was a niche and entertaining pop flick. Damn the snobs & curmudgeons who turned their backs and pens against it!
    They’ll never understand the thrill of escaping some local thugs on a bicycle. Till the day I die, I’ll remember putting everything into my pedals…looking back at the saggy-pantalooned thugs giving up the chase.
    They wanted to steal my sneakers as part of some super-gay initiation ritual (that’s a Canadian ghetto for ya’). They settled on robbing my best friend who chose to walk that day. IMO, served him right for saving up for a car.
    Sending you best wishes from the city,
    Paul Escobar

  10. Fred says:

    I probably should have stuck with just the second line. The other was a poor play on a colloquial American expression which doesn’t do justice Alan’s skill with words.

  11. Trent says:

    Brick was brilliant. Glad you liked it.

  12. nick b says:

    Once again, I find myself doubting that I will enjoy the movie more than I have the review. I’m pretty sure I won’t learn as much either.
    In any case, I hope our reviewer has not judged Mr. Martello too harshly. After all, a stopped clock is only correct twice a day. And it’s also quite possible Don Jon has learned the wisdom of early falconers: ‘in rubo avis in dextra valet duos’.

  13. rjj says:

    1. our media mire of food, house, fashion, umbrage (news/public affairs programming) porn;
    2. our Faustian wankers creating realities and playing the statecraft air guitar;
    3. the list goes on …..
    a social survey of our time could be written as “The One-Backed Bestiary.”
    any sense of irony sitting there in darkened room with other people, singly and in pairs, laughing at the shadows on the wall???

  14. rjj says:

    forgot comity porn [social media].

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