As I watched Don Jon’s Addiction at Sundance, I knew that news of this sort would be coming down the pipeline sooner or later. Totally called it.* The film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first feature, stars him as a lothario whose eponymous addiction is pornography. The movie was a big hit at the festival, and it quickly got scooped up for distribution by Relativity Media.
Which is where Gordon-Levitt had to think about making sure that the movie, which deals pretty explicitly with sex, would get a R rating, rather than a box office death sentence NC-17. See, Jon’s addiction is expressed to the audience through several scenes that cut rapidly between a series of extremely brief clips taken from actual porn and shots of the character watching them.
Porn can get pretty gross, especially if you watch a lot of it. We were very careful about picking just the right moments, just the right videos, and cropping them just the right way so that it feels like you’re seeing more than you’re actually seeing. You don’t technically see anything that’s not allowed in a rated R movie.
He’s right. There are no glimpses of genitalia in the movie, nor any sexual contact (I noticed because, once I saw that real porn was being used, I was curious to see whether a film with aspirations towards the mainstream would show penetration). But it doesn’t matter that he’s right. The MPAA is a notorious bunch of ninnies when it comes to sex, even if they’re absolute hounds for violence. So Gordon-Levitt will preemptively be trimming the shots of porn before the film goes before the MPAA:
I think it is important that those images are in there but what precisely you see isn’t that important. What’s important is the rhythm of the film, the repetition of what the Don Jon character does, over and over.
Again, he’s right. As long as he makes slight adjustments to what we see, the MPAA will probably be okay about it (they don’t really make any sense). What’s important is that he preserves the reason the porn is there. One of Gordon-Levitt’s smart moves was that all that sex really has an artistic point to make within the context of his film. It isn’t just cheap titillation.
Don Jon’s Addiction will come out sometime this Summer.
*Okay, for those of you paying attention, I was wrong when I speculated that one of the Star Wars spinoffs would focus on the droids. Although they could still do that.