For those who are frequent visitors on my blog, the highest rating for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s feature debut Don Jon probably doesn’t come as a surprise – I adore that man! I have even gone as far as calling him my boy and in my eyes he can do no wrong (except Premium Rush but let’s not bring that up again). So, due to my affection towards Joe, I decided not to pressure myself into loving the movie and instead of having extremely high expectations for Don Jon, I just wanted to celebrate his first movie – and I did!
- Before I begin can we just appreciate Joe’s body in Don Jon just for a minute…alright, just two more minutes, excellent.
With so much to gush about, cause let’s face it, this review is going to be a very positive one, I’m actually going to start off with a little trailer-review. I don’t normally watch trailers because I think the unknown is much more appealing but I’m going to be honest, I watched Don Jon’s trailer a lot before I finally was able to see the movie. Luckily, the trailer was edited together in a way that it gave just the right amount of information away without actually revealing the entire tone of Don Jon. While watching the movie I was pleasantly surprised how much comedy Don Jon actually embodied and how it still managed to have a bit of drama in the end. I’ll discuss this balance of comedy and drama later on but one thing I love about Don Jon’s trailer is that it really goes well with the movie – especially in terms of the editing.
Since I already mentioned the editing, I might as well give a shout out to Lauren Zuckerman for putting it all together but obviously for Joseph himself, who managed to write very a coherent story with constant elements. The directing was very clear in terms of the visual balance with the things Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loves in his life: his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and his porn. Every aspect of his life is frequently portrayed and shown but throughout the movie, little by little, these things start to change. It’s very clever actually because these intermediate scenes show the change Jon goes through in a very subtle way and it brings the movie together nicely.
The whole plot of Don Jon is nice as well, mostly because of its very unique point of view from a guy who knows how to make comedy as well as drama. Like I mentioned in the beginning, there’s a certain balance between these two and whilst I prefer the comedy side of Don Jon that dominates the first half of the movie, I did like the drama as well. Though, as my only criticism I must say that the second half of the movie was less exciting and I say this with a heavy heart because I loved Don Jon and I’m certain I’ll watch it again and again. That being said, the second half of the movie felt a bit rushed and following such a strong and detail oriented first half, it did fell a little flat. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still a strong movie all together and the only reason the drama-half of Don Jon was weaker is because the movie started off so strong.
Without giving away too much, the plot of Don Jon is simply about a guy who knows what he cares about and one of those things is porn. He has a very distinctive opinion about porn and prefers it to real sex due to various reasons that offered a lot of good laughs during the movie. And while I laughed amongst the men in the audience, I soon realized that not many women found it as funny. There were some chuckles but it was clear that the men related more to Don Jon than women because the movie does have a certain dispositions towards the softer sex – and due to the fact that in this case I totally understand the male perspective, I connected to Jon right away. Besides, his lack of interest towards romantic comedies that was already mentioned in the trailer, made me like his character – show me a character that hates rom-com’s and I’m on their side. Don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t think Jon’s entire philosophy is to be taken seriously but he did have a point and clearly the male audience agreed with him.
A lot of that agreement was aimed towards the hotness of Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and though I never started to like her, I think she was perfectly portrayed by Johansson. Half of her appeal as Barbara was actually the fact that I’m not necessarily a fan of hers and it helped a lot to dislike Barbara. I guess that makes her a great actress if she is able to be hot and annoying at the same time. The complete opposite to her character was Esther (Julianne Moore) who I absolutely loved! She was the quirky older woman with great personality and her scenes with Jon were always entertaining. Though her character was the center of the drama half of the movie, I can’t fault Moore on the small little dislikes I had – it came down to the script and like I said, it felt a little rushed. The third woman I’d like to point out is Jon’s sister Monica (Brie Larson) – the most cleverly written character in the entire movie! Why? Because she was the only one who saw Barbara for who she was, plus, she had great presence even though she didn’t do much… but that’s why I loved her. Simple and yet irreplaceable.
Another well written character was Jon’s father Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) who was the kind of father you expect Jon to have. There’s this awesome scene where Jon Sr. meets Barbara for the first time and it really shows how complicated men can be. Jon Sr. clearly loves his wife and yet, he as a man is almost required to admire the beauty of another woman. In many of the cases, this kind of character would stir up dislike but somehow there’s a certain appeal to him that just never goes away. I’m not going to lie, Danza isn’t a name I would recognize but his Jon Sr. was almost as great as Robert De Niro’s Pat Sr. in Silver Linings Playbook.
Coming back to the directing/writing for a second I want to emphasize the skill Joe had – yes, I’m a bit bias when it comes to him but I’m certain I’m not the only one who saw the potential in the guy after watching Don Jon. Yes, it had minor faults in the end and it didn’t exude total perfection but for a debut Don Jon was brilliant! I decided that before the movie ended, somewhere between the comedy and the drama, during a scene where Jon was washing dishes. Just the smallest scene, tiny detail that pretty much sums up the whole process of dish washing and I was sold. I don’t know what exactly clicked in that scene, I’m assuming it was because it was so simple and yet so true to life that I couldn’t hold my laughter. Thinking back, Don Jon is filled with those small little moments that just click, man or a woman, everybody would find something to connect to in Don Jon.
Yes, I just said everybody can connect with a movie about a pron addict but it’s the truth because Don Jon eventually is about a lot more than just porn. Like I said, there’s some drama in the end and if one would distance himself from the fact that the main character values porn above everything else, Don Jon has many life lessons. Just because one of them happens to be revolving around porn doesn’t make the movie less sophisticated but the opposite, Don Jon is smart and clever and definitely a great way to start off a writing/directing career. So here’s to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, hurray!