And that something is? Porn. Although it’s dealt with in two very different ways.
Lovelace is a biopic of Linda Lovelace, the first porn superstar who shot to fame for her role in Deep Throat, the 1972 film that went on to gross $100 million, of which Lovelace received nothing. Amanda Seyfried plays Lovelace and Peter Saarsgard plays her abusive husband Chuck Traynor. Lovelace met Traynor when she was in her early twenties. He was charming and charismatic and they got married soon after meeting. Lovelace later alleged that Traynor coerced her into pornography, was violent and often raped her, and forced her into prostitution to pay off his debts.
When Deep Throat came out Lovelace was seen as the poster girl for the sexual revolution and she seemed to revel in her newfound fame, radiating an innocent and open sexuality. Perhaps that’s why so many people found it hard to believe her later claims of abuse and coercion at the hands of Traynor. However when Lovelace released her biography Ordeal in 1980 the publishers insisted that she take a polygraph test to back up her assertions and she passed it.
Lovelace was essentially a very young and vulnerable woman who made a bad decision. The point is made in the movie that Lovelace was in the porn industry for only seventeen days; should it really affect the rest of her life? Lovelace endeavours to show both sides of the story and does so very well, with great performances by Seyfried and the supporting cast.
Don Jon is a far less harrowing and very funny look at a young man who is a modern day Don Juan. Written, directed by, and also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role, the titular Jon Martello is a New Jersey Lothario who only cares about, “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn.”
One night in a club he meets the girl of his dreams, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), and eventually manages to snag a date with her. Barbara insists on a traditional courtship and also forces Jon to attend college and further his career prospects. Eventually Barbara goes to bed with Jon but as always he is unable to have a satisfying sex life with her due to his excessive porn consumption.
In his college classes he meets Esther (Julianne Moore), an older woman who reaches out to him in friendship. Through his relationship with Esther, Jon comes to many realisations about himself and his attitude to sex and relationships.
Don Jon effectively addresses an issue that I think is becoming more prevalent amongst young men; how porn affects their expectations and attitudes to real-life sex, and how this creates problems in their close relationships. But by no means is this film preachy. It’s very funny with smart dialogue, warmth and wonderful performances from the three leads. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And for a more in-depth analysis I recommend this brilliant article by Anne Helen Petersen on her blog Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style.