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Christian Reviewers Praise 'Don Jon' Stance Against Porn and Narcissism, but Warn Against Seeing It

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By Tyler O'Neil , CP Reporter
October 1, 2013|3:55 pm
don jon (Photo by Daniel McFadden – © 2013 Relativity Media)

Still of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon

Editor's Note: SPOILER ALERT

Christians who went to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut, "Don Jon," praised the film's message but warned Christian viewers to either not see it or to treat it with extreme caution.

"'Don Jon' says true fulfillment is found in others – it is a step towards understanding God's love for us," Paul Asay, senior associate editor for Focus on the Family's review blog, Plugged In, told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday. Despite the film's positive message, he warned Christians not to see it.

"You're exposed to many porn shots," Asay noted. He said people who struggle in that area should not see it, because the visual aspect of sexuality can obscure the film's positive message.

When he was growing up, Asay recalled porn being a seemy thing, hidden away. "Now, because of the internet, porn has become mainstream," and many young Americans don't see a problem with it, he said. Luckily, the film does.

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a practicing Catholic, a bartender, a philanderer, and a porn addict. The film chronicles Jon's struggle with pornography, showcasing its negative effects on his appreciation of true romance, and tying this sexual entertainment to the main character's self-obsession, Asay noted.

"Don Jon" even features a man whose faith forms a major part of his life, a theme rarely found in today's films, the Plugged In editor claimed. But the main character's Roman Catholicism "feels almost just like a ritual, almost as his ritual of porn is itself – something that he does but that doesn't really touch his heart or his soul."

It isn't the church – but rather the loving arms of a broken woman – that breaks Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) out of his self-obsession, Asay noted. "One of the great things this movie does is that it pushes away the sense of self," emphasizing "the true beauty of giving."

On Christian review site Crosswalk.com, Managing Editor Shawn McEvoy praised the film as a message to the young people in the Millennial Generation. "Truth and answers come from somebody who has maturity, wisdom, and has experienced real suffering – things that today's generation tend to discount as undesirable or unimportant," McEvoy wrote.

The Crosswalk.com reviewer praised the film's central twist – it is not a romantic comedy. In the classic fashion, Jon meets a beautiful woman, Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johannson), who makes him work hard for her love. "But what this movie slyly allows us to discover is not only that Barbara Sugarman is not Jon's savior, but she in fact has her own flawed agenda," according to McEvoy. Refusing the idea of her prince cleaning his own apartment – a task in which he takes great pride – Barbara insists that he hire a maid.

"The romantic comedies Barbara loves are just as incorrect as our assumption that we are watching one, and almost as fake as Jon's pornography: while Jon does need to change, her motives to change him are for herself," explained the Crosswalk.com reviewer.

True reform comes with an older woman, Esther (Julianne Moore). McEvoy praised the fact that her brokenness opens Jon to honesty and brokenness, which "are key to healing, growing, gaining wisdom."

McEvoy argued that "Don Jon" will help narcissistic men addicted to porn by exposing the brokenness of "man-boys and raunch," and by alerting moviegoers to the fact that "the right woman" won't solve all their problems. Nevertheless, he condemned the film as offensive, disturbing, and unbiblical in its solutions.

Even the MovieGuide review, which deemed the film "unacceptable viewing, even for adults," found positive elements in "Don Jon."

"Gordon-Levitt weaves a sweet, funny and emotionally stirring tale of a simple guy trying to make sense of a life he realizes is stuck in shallowness," the review acknowledged. It also praised the film's condemnation of pornography as "not only degrading to women, but also degrading to the spirits and relationships of the men who watch."

 "It's an extraordinarily problematic movie, and yet it still has that loving heart in a way," Asay said.

 

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