Six hours later, I returned to the auditorium’s creaky seats. This time, I had left my backpack behind. At ten minutes before 7:00 pm, the room was filled with two hundred people who had arrived for the Yale Film Society’s pre-release screening of “Don Jon,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial and screenwriting debut.
Ryan Campbell, CC ’16, had arrived at the Whitney Center an hour and a half before the screening began. While there had been rumors that Gordon-Levitt himself would make an appearance, Campbell said that his reason for attending was more straightforward. “It’s a free movie,” Campbell said with a shrug. “What else am I going to do on a Wednesday evening?”
Apparently, many other students had the same idea. By 5:30 pm, the line for the movie had snaked around the corner of Wall Street, disappearing from view. Yale Film Society President Becca Edelman, MC ’14, said that she was thrilled with the turnout.
According to Edelman, the distributors of “Don Jon” had contacted the Film Society to ask if they would be interested in screening the movie at Yale; the Film Society happily acquiesced. Edelman said that they were particularly excited to show the movie because it was shot on 35 mm film, which the auditorium of the Whitney Humanities Center had the capacity to play. “Not many people still make their new movies on 35 mm print,” Edelman, a Film Studies major, said. “It’s pretty cool that it’s on actual film.”
She added another reason that she believes that the distributors were eager to share the film at Yale: “I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is trying to put on a less commercial persona than he’s had in the past,” Edelman said. “I think college audiences are really good for that, and just to spread word about the movie.”
Gordon-Levitt directed, wrote, and starred in the movie, which chronicles the travails of a young man from New Jersey who, at the opening of the film, declares that his life revolves around eight things: “My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. And my porn.” As becomes quickly apparent, Gordon-Levitt’s character, Jon, is addicted to pornography. While this obsession lies at the crux of the movie, it also drives the plot in an exploration of the nature of loss, religion, familial ties, and evolving relationships.
Ninety minutes later, the film finished. “I thought it was a really fun movie!” said the resolutely perky Edelman, as she picked pieces of discarded paper off the floor of the room.
The theater quickly emptied out. A mother could be heard telling her teenaged daughter, on their way out the door, “You can’t be too pissed. It was free!” The two remaining members of the audience were a middle-aged couple who sat side-by-side, a slightly dazed look in their eyes, pointedly not looking at each other. The man whistled through his teeth as I walked by, and the sound faded into the empty space. Silence had fallen once more over the Whitney Humanities Center auditorium. Two hundred people would never be able to look at Gordon-Levitt the same way again, and, when I returned to the Humanities Center the next day, it was with a renewed sense of skepticism and awareness that, maybe, it wasn’t so holy after all.