Don Jon

Don Jon

 **   C

Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Writing credits Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt … Jon
Scarlett Johansson … Barbara
Julianne Moore … Esther
Tony Danza … Jon Sr.
Glenne Headly … Angela
Brie Larson … Monica
Rob Brown … Bobby
Jeremy Luke … Danny

It had been one of those long hard weeks for each of us; so family time spent out at a theater seemed a natural destination. I must admit I have disproportional influence in selecting movie choices in our family; so did not object to letting my mother chose that night. Her pick was Don Jon. She declared that she didn’t feel like seeing another “Guy’s flick” but that instead she wanted to see this light romantic comedy. To my credit, I did my best to explain what I knew of the plot-line and suggested that she might prefer an other option; but that only seemed to harden her will to stick with choice. So off we went to see a movie that my mom had convinced herself was this years answer to “Sleepless in Seattle.”

The previews came to a close, and Jon(Joseph Gordon-Levitt),a 20 something bartender, opens the movie by listing those things that he values most, his car, his family, his church, and the unending stream of women he picks up in bars. He seems so successful at these conquests that the His two friends, that routinely accompany him, nick-named him “Don Jon.” Despite his ability to reliably attract “10s” into his bed each weekend; it is his obsession to watching porn that he tells us is his real climax. The movie proceeds to quickly flash an array of both still and video images, each of which I would assume would be caught by Google’s “Safety Search” option. I can only imagine that the editor, Lauren Zuckerman, must have received the equivalent of Combat-pay for having to spend so many hours watching porn in order to create these carefully-cut montages. Jon’s life is both predictable as it is repetitive; so we witness Jon “Entertaining himself” more times then we watched Denzel drink in the film “Flight.

As a 17 yrs old, there are limited times I get to say “I told you so” to my mom without being accused of having a “bad Attitude;” so I must admit a small smile came to my face when she expressed her displeasure loud enough to be heard by anyone in a 12 foot circle. Let me be clear, this was certainly not an X rated movie, not in content or intent. This was not a film glorifying porn, rather it took issue with it creating plastic, unrealistic expectations, so extreme that none of the real women finding his way to his bed can compete.Don Jon,  Johansson

One night at a club, he meets Barbra (Johansson), a woman that him and his friends agree is a perfect “Dime.” John uses all his best moves, yet is unable to bed her that first night. Pushed forward by his obsession to have her, he jumps through the hoops she places in front of him, even her insistence he attend a night school class to better himself. The more he does to win her, we recognize the less worthy she is of his efforts. But after weeks of effort, she makes it to his bed, but even sex with Scarlett Johansson can’t match his porn. She catches him, and puts him on notice. She makes no secret of the fact that that she has certain expectations of any guy that she would date, and his viewing habits fall outside of her standards.

While I find some weakness in the writing, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does create in Barbra an interesting foil for Don; since she is, in many ways, the mirror image of him.  She is as much like him as it is possible to be for a woman that is trying to be the exact opposite.  I’m not sure if Levitt’s telling us that woman like Barbra exist as reaction to guys like Jon, or that men learn to act like Jon because of woman like Barbra; but it is clear that these two people do not work as a couple.

At night school he meets Esther (Julianne Moore), a woman 20 years older and one that actually has a personality beyond a Jersey shore stereotype.  He catches her crying, she catches him watching, you guessed it, porn on his cell phone.  Esther is as different from Barbra as Miley Cyrus is from Janis Joplin. She is the least cartoonish of any of the characters, and she brings out the best in Jon.  One of the problems with the writing is that “The best of Jon” is not substantially different then where he began. Perhaps she showed him that sex with a person he has some feeling for, can replace his need for porn, but at no time are we lead to believe that Ester and Jon star-crossed lovers destined to spend their lives together. She is just the first woman he’s been with that he recognizes as more than a blow-up sex doll, more than a notch on his belt. I was glad to see him realize that there is value in treating woman as people, but I can’t help but think he should have known that back when he was in kindergarten.

This was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first full length movie that he wrote or directed, I find his skill at a director out shines his talent as a writer .  The supporting  cast lack depth and don’t appear to grow as the story unfolds.  In fact Don is the only one on the screen that is altered in any measurable way. The directing showed an understanding of his actors, and I liked the visual repetition of him walking into the gym and driving to, and attending church. I also feel the use of confessing his sins to the priest was a clever device to  update us on  the status of his relationships.

While this was probably not the movie my mom was expecting; I do think it was well crafted and a generally solid film.

Lane J. Lubell
CinemaShadow.com

One Response to Don Jon

  1. Pingback: Don Jon, Review | cinemashadow

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