Movie Review: Don Jon
By Ryan Mazie
September 27, 2013
Nicknamed “Don” for his ability to take any woman home from the bar, Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is as slick as his greased back Guido-hair. Unfortunately, Don Jon isn’t as smooth of an operator as the titular character.
Don Jon is a very auspicious directing and writing debut for the ever increasing multi-hyphenate Joseph Gordon-Levitt. With cuts that are just as quick as it takes Jon to get a woman undressed, this ADD romantic comedy with a delightfully surprising third act, shows that the director-writer-star refuses to be a typical Hollywood player.
Not wasting time with a quick 90-minute runtime, Jon is developed largely through voiceover and quick cut visuals. At the bar with his wingmen (an underused Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke), Jon spies his dream girl, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson as a Jessica Rabbit-prototype). Soon enough, Jon’s weekly streak of bedding women is over, as the two become an item. However, even ScarJo’s beautiful body can’t compete with the images on Jon’s laptop.
An analysis on the psychological effects of porn, the film doesn’t dive as deep as it imagines itself to and that’s fine. This is a RomCom after all. The script plays with the concept of women being addicted to romantic comedies, with those being just as much of a fantasy to women as men with porn, but this idea is only flirted with.
Gordon-Levitt proves to be a lively director, with his pacing and voice-over being reminiscent of a less irreverent Arrested Development structure. The use of porn serves a purpose and doesn’t come across as smutty. However, the film doesn’t play squeaky clean either with an arguable overuse of the X-rated clips (the movie was originally rated NC-17 until some of the porn clips were edited down). Like our character Jon, the movie never fully commits to anything.
There is a nice flow to the film with lots of repetition, showing the arc of the character. The weekly church confessionals are a nice touch that creates a timeline and makes Jon more amiable.
Set in North Jersey, the whole cast has accents teetering on the verge of Saturday Night Live parody. Jon comes from a family of loud-talking, wife beater-wearing Catholics. Tony Danza is his foul-mouthed, sports-obsessed father, while Glenne Headly is his grandchildren-anticipating mother. Brie Larson is Jon’s sister, who is silently glued to her phone in one of the film’s most amusing visual gags (the tossing of the post-ejaculation tissues in the garbage can is a close second).
Julianne Moore is awkwardly introduced halfway through as a student in Jon’s night class. I won’t spoil her history or what happens, for this is where the movie turns unconventional, but the whole setup seems slapdash. Where Gordon-Levitt lacks as a writer, he makes up two-fold with his acting. The two stars’ magnetism and superior acting abilities convince you to swallow the forced relationship.
Scarlett Johansson showcases her looks and skills as a women cut from the same cloth as the cast of Jersey Shore. The gum-snapper adds charm to her character and shares a laugh-out-loud dry-humping hallway scene with Gordon-Levitt that is sure to be remembered.
Funny and entertaining, the film is a lot more than the advertisements display. Audiences won’t necessarily feel duped when buying a ticket, but the lack of a pretty Hollywood ending may surprise. A lot of the elements work, but the stereotype-level supporting cast isn’t real enough to ground the issues that the film is trying to drive home. Don Jon has a lot on its mind, but just like the character, the porn always comes first.
7 out of 10