*major spoilers ahead
So I just took a little time to watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon, which on it's shiny exterior based on advertising would make you think it's just like any other romcom. But this is JGL, and he's done enough solid work that you have to give him some credit. Truth be told, there are a lot of parallels I saw between this film and (500) Days of Summer. It's the complete deconstruction of the fantasy life people build up in their heads regarding sex, love, relationships and the person on the other side.
The film starts off with Jon's porn addiction front and center. At one point in the film he boasts about masturbating a record 11 times in a day, which really makes something in me chafe. He goes out to the clubs with his bros, they rate women and objectify them, and he takes a new girl home every night. There's a lot of bitching and moaning about how sex with a woman isn't as good as porn because going down on women is gross, and girls rush through blowjobs; unlike in fantasy land where bjs are long and plentiful and missionary is a rare occurrence. Often, once the woman is asleep, he'll sneak off and watch more porn. And then he'll head to church the next day, and have all of his sins absolved by confessing and some Hail Marys while doing pull ups at the gym. Easy peasy, sin absolved, misogyny continues. For pretty much the first half of this movie, he is almost cartoonish in this Jersey boy character with his rage outbursts and approach to women.
Soon after, he meets Barbara. She's pretty enough for the long con. While she plays a significant part in making some superficial changes in his life, she's pretty much just arm candy and is treated as such. Her expectations on what constitutes love are completely blown out of proportion, thanks to the (masterfully produced mini) romantic movies she immerses herself in. Despite the fact that he seems perfectly comfortable in his life and career, she pushes him to become something closer to her ideal man; insisting that he go to school and hire a cleaning lady because she can't stand the notion of a man cleaning up after himself. She is pretty much just as awful as he is. But she's hot, and gets a ton of validation from it, and seems to think being hot and a set of ideas loosely based around The Rules is all she needs to get a man to bend to her every whim. Because that's what love is to her, someone who will do whatever the hell she wants him to.
Barbara and Jon are basically Tom and Summer. Only I think Summer has a little more depth, and was at least honest with what she wanted from the beginning. Jon doesn't know what he wants outside of porn. He's getting a lot of pressure from his mother about settling down, but despite pairing up with Barbara I never get the impression he wanted to look towards the future. There's a lot of great character growth, and Julianne Moore's Esther sticks out as the only character who is three dimensional. It's her humanity that changes the course of the film from the trope of him learning from the errors of his porn addiction and falling into the trope of Barbara's romantic comedy.
I wish we could have seen more of the film from Barbara's perspective; wherein she eventually learns that no man is going to let her rush off in a huff, only to chase her down a busy street to kiss her and exclaim how much he loves her. But alas this isn't her story, and in the end she learns nothing from the breakup with Jon. There is no happy ending for the two of them, he's not going to get on his knees begging for forgiveness for lying to her about his porn habit. He learned his lessons from Esther, which is still somewhat problematic to me. Yes, Esther is a fully realized human being in this land of stereotypes, but her realness only serves to help further Jon towards the path of enlightenment. But I guess it's ok because her character is so broken and doesn't want anything serious? I don't know, I'm a little lost on that point.
Jon and Barbara, much like Tom in (500) Days of Summer, can't see past themselves to see the person on the other side of the relationship. They get a lot of biased feedback from friends which reinforce their ideas of what a couple should look like, or how they should act. Each one has their own agenda without any regard of what the other person imagines their life to be. But once they take off the blinders, it can be painful to realize what they've been putting the other person through.