For this weekend’s releases, I was torn between Don Jon and Rush. (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 was right out. I don’t review kid’s movies because I almost always like them.) Smartly, I did an impromptu poll so I didn’t have to actually think for myself. The people voted and I was off to Don Jon.
For those of you who don’t know, Don Jon marks Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first time behind the camera. That’s right, not only did he star in it, he also directed. So let me just get this out of the way: for a first-time director, he didn’t do a bad job. I wasn’t blown away, but I hope that he’ll someday be up there with other great actor/directors such as Ben Affleck and Clint Eastwood.
Don Jon is a simple tale about a man with an addiction to pornography. It’s far, far, far, far less strange than Shame which, while good, was an uncomfortable and often off-putting movie. No, this film goes for a more light-hearted approach. Mr. Gordon-Levitt plays Jon, a man who is so good at getting girls that his friends call him The Don. (Get it? Don Jon? Anyways…) The thing is, no matter how beautiful the girl or how good the sex, Jon prefers porn. He’ll even sneak out of the arms of a beautiful sleeping woman just to get some spank time in front of his laptop.
But then he meets ‘the perfect ten.’ Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, and he absolutely must have her. But unlike the other girls, Barbara isn’t falling for Jon’s shtick so he has no choice but to *gulp* start dating her. Even worse? She thinks pornography is disgusting.
But date her he does, and he soon falls madly in love.
I know I’m always referencing trailers in my reviews, but I like to point out when a trailer has failed or succeeded at getting a film’s plot across without spoiling anything. For Don Jon I give the trailer a 10/10. There is a huge plot point that is never even hinted at in the trailer, and I believe we’re all the better for it.
As far as the acting goes, it was a bit hit-and-miss. Because everyone was really playing up the Jersey accents, it got a little silly. Gordon-Levitt was fine, but his voice and facial expressions did get ridiculous at times. Scarlett Johansson was likewise entertaining, and I feel that she did more than enough to earn praise even if her character was a bit one dimensional.
The biggest surprises however fell to three older members of the cast. Tony Danza played Jon’s father, Jon Sr. while Glenne Headly played Jon’s mother, Angela. They obviously enjoyed going whole-hog on the Jersey thing, and Tony Danza was downright hilarious. Then there was Julianne Moore, who I didn’t even know was IN the film, as Esther, a classmate of Jon’s at night school. I’ll just say that she is hands-down the most three dimensional character in the film.
Finally, a high-five to Brie Larson as Jon’s sister, Monica. Her role isn’t much, but it’s decidedly entertaining.
That being said, this movie can be incredibly uncomfortable. Jon has long monologues about the glories of porn and they’re all accompanied by visual material that skirts the NC-17 line. Plus, if you want to see what Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s O-face looks like, you’ll have about a dozen examples throughout. Additionally, there are some make-out sessions on screen that would make a hooker blush. If you’re looking for a date movie or something to take your parents to, I would recommend damn near anything else.
As for the camera, there were a few odd decisions here and there, like unnecessary handi-cam scenes and a few strange angles, but for the most part it wasn’t distracting.
My biggest problem with Don Jon is in the plot itself. It takes a sudden right turn halfway into its 90 minute run time, and while I actually like the second half better, it muddies the overall feeling of the film and gives the main character a deservedly unearned ending.
Don Jon: B-