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Don Jon

Don Jon

What She said:

She

Ok, so here's the deal with Don Jon.  It's not that I thought it was a bad movie.  It was good enough.  But I just felt like there were some obvious ways that they could have made it better.  That combined with the fact that the movie is itself just one step above porn meant that it had to prove a lot for me to endorse it.

Don Jon is the heartwarming (ok, not so much) story of Jon, a Jersey Shore-style Italian stallion who is working his way through every lady in his city.  He goes out every night, targets ladies who he classifies as sevens or above, and makes it his goal to bring them home for a night of meaningless relations.  He's a real charmer.  Aside from bagging ladies, he's also passionate about working out, clothes, church, generally looking good (e.g., tanning), and, oh yeah, porn.  Lots and lots of porn.  He's flat out addicted to the stuff.  In fact, he enjoys the world of porn more than real women, but he hides it from the public fairly well.  One day, Jon sees the woman of his dreams, Barbara, and decides that it's time to get serious and put his old ways behind him.  Him and Barbara start a pretty hot and heavy relationship, and Jon does everything that Barbara asks of him.  In fact, she's kind of a whiney, demanding, and rather unlikable witch.  But Jon is happy--at least he thinks he is.  Still, he cannot give up his porn addiction and that is what is ultimately his downfall.  Jon's only saving grace may come in the form of a generally messed up older woman that he meets while taking night classes.

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is buff, tan, and well groomed as our lead Jon.  He's also pretty darn depressing.  For anyone who isn't really interested in Jon's superficial lifestyle, you'll just feel bad for him and somewhat disgusted by the life that he leads.  Dude doesn't have a real job, but he's got a whole lot of honeys, none of whom really mean anything to him.  When he does find a girlfriend, she's a total user.  And his family is loud and self-obsessed. You can really see where he gets it from.  Kudos to Gordon-Levitt for putting so much effort into the character.  He also directed the film, so it was sort of his baby.  Scarlett Johansson plays Barbara, Julianne Moore is Esther (the older woman), and Tony Danza plays Jon's dad.  They all do a pretty good job, although Johansson borders on overacting with her larger than life attitude and embellished accent. 

Now, on to my gripes.  I felt that the plot direction of this film was well apparent fairly early, and so it didn't make sense to me why things moved so slowly.  The writers could have easily progressed the storyline further and more swiftly.  In that same vein, I think that there were plenty of missed opportunities for relevant and ironic humor.  The film did take advantage of this to some degree, but they really should have done more.  It would have made everyone just a little more likable.  I think it would have also lightened what became a pretty heavy storyline.  The plot gets so bogged down by drama and sap that it becomes difficult to wade through.  To top things off, I just didn't feel the chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Johansson or Gordon-Levitt and Moore, especially not the latter relationship.  I actually found it a little painful to watch. 

I give this movie credit for trying, and I'd say it was about 60 percent there, but it just didn't quite go far enough to make it a winner.  Not compelling enough, not funny enough, and not rewarding enough to make it worthwhile.

Thumbs half up.

Don Jon

What He said:

He

The best way to describe Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is refer to Jersey Shore.  I would call him a caricature, but it turns out people like this actually do exist. Jon likes working out, going to clubs, and meeting new women as frequently as possible. He also likes something else. He likes pornography. A lot. It would be fair to say he has an addiction. He actually prefers it to an actual relationship.

Despite that, he still looks his latest conquest at the club every weekend. The latest lady on his radar is a gal named Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). She plays hard to get at first, but eventually agrees to go out with Jon. The two go out a few times and eventually enter a relationship, which is new territory for John. His friends start to mix with her friends, yada, yada, yada. He even introduces her to his parents and sister (played by Tony  Danza, Gleanne Headly, and Brie Larson).

One night Barbara catches him watching one of his dirty movies. She’s absolutely disgusted by this. She thinks he is sick and morally depraved. Worst of all, she is offended by it. She looks at it as a personal insult. She thinks that she should be enough for Jon and watching that kind of stuff means she isn’t enough for him. Jon convinces her that it is not something he normally does and that a friend sent it to him as a joke. Barbara believes him and the two move on.

Meanwhile, Barbara has also been trying to change Jon. She wants him to go to night school and work towards attaining an office job (he’s a bartender if I remember correctly). Jon is perfectly happy with his job, but agrees that going to night school can’t hurt. At night school, he meets a quirky – if not outright weird – older woman named Esther (Julianne Moore). The two of them often have awkward interactions with one another, but seem to keep bumping into one another.

Don Jon

Jon and Barbara’s relationship is again tested when she discovers he lied to her about how often he watches porn. It turns out she has been snooping around on his computer and discovered just how often it is Jon indulges himself.
This movie was popping up on a few of the news and entertainment websites that I frequent when looking for news stories for the site. A couple writers were talking about this movie on an almost weekly basis. I know it was also gained some popularity coming out of the Sundance Film Festival. Another thing I knew about it was that it was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut (and a lot of people like him).

Now these all sound like good things – especially before a movie is even released – but there’s something about the way my brain works that doesn’t look at it that way. When I hear hype about a movie almost a year before it comes out and most of that comes from a small film festival, I’m skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-independent or small movies, but I think the film festival crowd has a habit of hyping things up without merit. They will latch onto something just because it’s not a “Hollywood film” and proclaim it as a masterpiece right out of the gate.

I was also skeptical of how much people were hyping up Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a writer and director. I have nothing against the guy. I even like several of his performances (The Dark Knight Rises, 500 Days of Summer, Looper, and 10 Things I Hate About You to name a few). But I think people have a tendency to hype him up. He’s kind of become “a thing” in certain circles. There’s a lot of “Oh Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in it? It’s bound to be good” going on when people talk about him. I thought the trailer for this movie looked decent enough, but was very skeptical about how much people were hyping this up simply because he was involved; and as a writer, director, and actor no less.

Aside from a few laughs, I really didn’t care for the movie. I didn’t find the characters likeable or relatable. That’s not to say you always have to put yourself in the characters shoes – I hated the two leads in Sideways but thought it was a really good movie – but there was just something about the characters in the movie that made me not care much about them at all. I didn’t feel invested in the story one bit. I didn’t care about their relationship or if Jon was able to move past his dependency on porn. I had no desire to see things work out for them. I didn’t think it was a very compelling  or interesting story. I thought the performances felt authentic enough, but I just didn’t care about the characters. It had some laughs and an underlying message, I just didn’t care about whether it was resolved or not. I also thought the movie was rather predictable. The only time a movie can get away with that is if it is so much fun that you don’t care that you figured out what is going to happen in the end.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on January 4, 2013.

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