Movie Review: DON JON (2013)
Multi-talented people always fascinate me. I admire artists that can wear various hats successfully, and explore different areas of the creative spectrum. This is a movie review of a film by one such person who has really grown in the industry the last few years. After garnering a lot of attention for his roles in films like THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) & LOOPER (2012), Joseph Gordon-Levitt is able to tell an entertaining story about a 2 dimensional character, with plenty of growth and interest.
Blank Page Rating: 4 out of 5 Swiffer Pads
DON JON is the very simple story of a playboy, Jon, who lives a straightforward lifestyle with friends, family, job, clubbing and hooking up with as many women as possible that meet his high standards, of course. The twist here is that this eligible bachelor is also an enthusiast of the pornographic nature. This aspect of the movie right away seems like the set up for a Will Ferrell comedy, however, there is so much more at play, and the Director dismisses any prejudice about it in the opening scenes. Jon, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is introduced to us through his own voice over narrative, in the beginning of the movie, where he immediately makes a compelling argument over how the satisfaction that he derives from Pornography, is much better than actual physical intercourse. Jon’s everyday Jersey Boy attitude and his skewed logic actually make the audience think twice before dismissing the premise as being ‘gimmicky’ or unreal, and later on, adds a level of unexpected empathy for the character.
So this shallow and superficial guy, finally meets the woman of his dreams, while still preferring porn over the real thing, and having to come to terms with his obsession after a chance encounter with an older woman, played by Julianne Moore. Scarlett Johannsen plays Barbara, Jon’s, equally superficial and airheaded girlfriend, who tries to change Jon into ‘husband material’, and while subtle at first, her manipulation becomes pretty obvious later on. Johanssen does a great no-brainer role here, which is nowhere near the caliber of her other works, but I found that a refreshing change. DON JON eventually slows down in the 3rd act into becoming more than what it set out to be. Despite the graphic plot device, Jon’s interest in pornography is revealed to be a substitute for something missing in his life, and this is made obvious to Jon through the character of Julianne Moore, who pulls off yet another brilliant performance of a deeply troubled woman who comes across Jon and develops a friendship with him.
On top of starring in this, JGL has also written the story and directs the film, and does all aspects incredibly successfully. Despite starting off as the typical bad boy player archetype, the character’s progression and journey to a more self aware individual is never clichéd or formulaic, and it’s not until late in the 3rd act that the movie becomes a story of enlighten and endearment. It’s a realistically progressive story that moves forward at a comfortable emotional pace, while keeping things always interesting and always moving ahead. It’s also is a short movie, with a run time of a little over 1.5 hours. But length of the film is proportional to the story being told. The scenes that need quick set ups are rushed with zoom pans and straight cuts, however, the slower more impactful sequences are allowed to effectively sink in with the audience. JGL’s direction is very sharp as he chooses every scene and frame carefully to convey the best dramatic impact to the onscreen events.
Despite the explicitly graphic content and in your face Porn, DON JON ends up being a sweet movie that really shows a proper development of a 2 dimensional character, with all the complexities that come with it. Amidst his romantic relationship, the story is able to touch upon Jon’s family life, religious disillusionments, friendships and over all attitudes in life. It’s a great film, written, directed and performed by a wonderful young guy, and here’s hoping that the multi-talented Joseph Gordon Levitt continues making more movies.