The first scene of Don Jon (written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also stars) features "The Don" Jon and two of his friends standing in a club, evaluating the appearance of every woman there. It's the pronouns that are important here: "It's a dime!" says one of Jon's friends (meaning a perfect ten out of ten). "Naw," Jon responds, "Maybe it's an eight. Maybe."
And so every viewer in the audience gears up for an object lesson about the Dangers of Objectifying Women, or the Soul-Withering Effects of Pornography, or something—but Don Jon is about something bigger than an addiction to pornography. There's never a moment where his porn addiction is treated like a "sin" in anything other than a nominal sense, as when Jon describes his actions to a faceless priest. No, for Levitt, porn is just a case study for what the film really cares about: why do we feel so alone?
Jon sleeps with different women every night, but still slips out of the arms of the woman beside him to go and watch porn. "I think I like porn better than [sex]," he says (though employing a more vulgar term). "I just lose myself in it, in a way I don't when I'm [having sex]." But when Jon decides it's time to get a girlfriend, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), he realizes that she has her escapist fantasies, too. She sits in the theater and watches (staring at the camera wide-eyed and rapturous) as the film-within-a-film follows your traditional rom-com structure: meet, fall in love, break up, get back together, get married, ride off into the sunset. The cinematography emphasizes what Jon later makes explicit, at least in thought: "You ...1
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