Review : Don Jon (Movie)

(Written by Patricia Leblanc)

After seeing the preview for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut film Don Jon (2013) I was more or less unimpressed. I’m a fan of his starting from his days with long hair in Third Rock from the Sun but I found that his film resembled a film student’s graduation project. Let me explain what this means because I see this all the time as a film school senior and I despise the pretentious, artistic for art sake style of filmmaking that it entails.

A film student will make a film about things surrounding him, mostly 20-year-old club crawling characters that have no depth, shot in an ironic, but weirdly glorifying way due to its over-stylized aesthetics, in the goal to ridicule modern pop culture. Usually the result actually resembles an orgasm of colors all digitally modified in post-production and an array of fancy camera movement that doesn’t advance the plot in anyway. But the director will remain adamant that his oeuvre is a work of art.

Well, now I’m done ranting. The point of all this is to say that Gordon-Levitt’s film is surprisingly well developed with characters who fully represent the age and who actually evolve throughout the movie. The story is about a young man from New Jersey who is passionate about a few things in his life (greatly summarized as ‘My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, and my porn’). Obsessed by porn, he searches for his perfect woman by scoring (literally and figuratively) girls in clubs, brining them home by taxi and having fun in the sack. When he meets a ‘dime’, Jersey princess played with convincing bravado by Scarlet Johansson, he tries to change to accommodate to her demands, even going to night classes, until he finds out what making love really is.

This movie is far from being shallow, but it’s not something I would go see with my 82-year-old grandmother. There are a lot of explicit sex scenes, but Gordon-Levitt has done so in a surprisingly respectful way without crossing the line of kitsh. The acting is hilarious without being too caricatured; Johansson is convincingly annoying as the Jersey princess and Don Jon’s macho father played by Tony Danza is done with such an amazing bravado that he lights up the screen.

Don Jon is a refreshingly light film that still will make the audience think. It does require that you look beyond the surface to actually understand where the story is going, but the average audience is smart enough to accomplish that. It’s definitely a strong directorial debut for Joseph Gordan-Levitt with a star cast.

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