Friday, 3 January 2014

Don Jon (2013) - ★★½

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Writer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson, Glenne Headley, Rob Brown

Watching Don Jon is like watching a more enlightened episode of Jersey Shore. It goes as deep as to say what Jon likes to do, and show us what he does in his private life, but it never delves more than skin-deep. It isn’t boring, but it isn’t entertaining either. Let’s just say that Don is not my kind of person, and his story is about as interesting as an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashian’s. It’s good in the way that it shows what many young-adults are like, through highlighting this generations ever growing obsession with clubs, one-night-stands, and perfect self-image. It’s bad in the way that it never breaks character, making it a repetitive story that shows little depth. I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but Don Jon is a movie that didn’t need to happen.

This is Jon: "There's only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn." This pretty much sums up what Don Jon is about. We follow the life of this shallow, fit young man who happens to be avidly addicted to porn. When he meets the girl of his dreams, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), he has to hide his dark secret from her or else she will leave him. It's a simple story that is sometimes interesting, and sometimes hard to watch. 

One thing that works against Don Jon is its leading actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He really buffed up for the role, and I do think he’s quite an attractive man. However, he just couldn’t convince me that he does all these "manly" things. His accent was good, and his expressions were good, but that wasn’t even half the battle. He had to be the spitting image of a young, good-looking, self-obsessed, sex-addicted hunk. I may be alone in saying this, but it always looked like he tried too hard to become the character. You might as well watch a documentary about Pauly-D from Jersey Shore, because you’ll find the exact same thing, minus the beautiful Scarlett Johansson.

There were two things this film had going for it. One was discovering more about Scarlett Johansson’s character, and the other was discovering more about Julianne Moore’s character. Johansson was fantastic as Jon’s girlfriend. She did a great Jersey accent, she used flawless hand gestures, and she looked the part (albeit way more beautiful than 95% of the world’s population), and she even did the hair flick! It’s so different from anything I’ve ever seen her play, so I would rank her performance in Don Jon as one of her best. However, she could only add so much pizazz to the movie, so I pretty much gave up on this film.

Just as I was about to pan Don Jon as one of the worst movies of 2013, Julianne Moore entered the fray and breathed life into the dying story. I’ll never forget her introduction, where she talked about her embarrassing crying situation, and then ended with the unpredictable line, “Were you, um, I’m sorry this might be rude but, were you just watching people fucking on your phone?” It sparked life back into the film. However, they barely scraped the surface of her character's inner feelings too, so we couldn't truly get to know her. She was the best of the bunch, but lost in a forgettable movie.

Some of the lowest points of the film came from the family banter sequences. I’m sure there are similar families out there in the world, but Jon’s family looked and sounded like an Italian-American cliché to the max. Tony Danza just couldn’t convince me that he was a rough and tough, Neanderthal like man of the family. His aggressiveness and ‘manly man’ act was as subtle as a brick flying through the screen and hitting me in the face. The screenplay was chock-full of clichés, from the jive talking African-American best friend, to the domineering Italian father that eats mostly pasta and criticises everything. Almost every scene was either predictable, or executed poorly due to unconvincing performances and dialogue.

One thing I did find interesting though was Jon’s addiction to porn. His reasoning is that every girl he has ever been with is nowhere near as enthusiastic/daring with sex as the girls on the Internet. They do things that normal women don’t, which is why he’ll always find porn more exciting than his real-life sexual liaisons. He can just lose himself in porn, and leave all his troubles behind. While that did shed some light on the psychology of a porn-addict, it just doesn’t delve far enough into the issue (which I suppose is a good thing, because Don Jon would get demolished when compared to the film ‘Shame,’ starring Michael Fassbender).

There were some really nice little touches added to Don Jon that I found surprisingly entertaining. Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum do cameos in a fake movie that Jon and Barbara see, called ‘Special Someone.’  It does hurt the realism of the film, but it elevated the story to make it ever so slightly entertaining. The constant flashes of semi-revealing porno clips were certainly different, so I applaud their addition. It did wonders in showing us the extent of Jon’s addiction, and what really goes on in his unworldly little head.

We’re living in a generation of reality TV shows that promote men who treat women like objects, women who treat men like they’re a piece of meat, and the ultimate lesson: sex is just a bit of fun and nothing more than that. The one admirable thing Don Jon managed to achieve is that it made the ‘no strings attached’ party life look very uncool, and very undesirable. But then again, that lifestyle has never appealed to me one bit. Who knows, there are probably people out there that see Jon as a great man who has it all. All this movie did was reaffirm the fact that characters with substance are much more entertaining to watch than clichés and fakers. Don Jon just didn’t have enough depth or originality to truly be an enjoyable movie.


  1. Good review Ben. Can't say it was a perfect movie for JGL to debut with, but it was still good enough to have me interested in what he has got on his plate next. Let's just hope that it's as interesting as this was.

    1. Thanks Dan. I agree that it was an interesting concept, but to me JGL just didn't execute it right. I'm just hoping his next film will be a lot better :)

  2. Nice review. The whole plot with Julianne Moore kinda ruined the film for me.

    1. Really? The whole plot with Julianne Moore saved the film from being repetitive for me.