Movie Review: “Don Jon” – Improbable But Refreshing

Written by Jesse Gelinas October 02, 2013

Gordon-Levitt bares all in "Don Jon"

JGL seems to be the new “it” guy right now. Everywhere he goes, everything he’s in, people love him. With two well-received action flicks in the past year, he’s not doing too bad. Women love him, men envy him. He got to be Batman in a Batman movie that never happened. He’s got it all. Now, he’s taking a turn behind the camera with his own script, “Don Jon”. Oddly enough, it’s a cut above most first-time features from “hot young actors”.

“Don Jon” follows Jon Martello, a modern day Don Juan who bags a different beautiful woman every weekend. In his own words, he only cares about his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, and his porn. A man of simple tastes, it would seem. Soon, Don Jon meets Barbara, a perfect 10 who he immediately wants to sleep with. The task proves difficult as she tries to shape him into her perfect romance-film love interest. Conflicts of interest arise between Jon, Barbara, his porn, her sex, and a middle-aged woman named Esther (ha!). It’s a lot better than it sounds.

Porn porn porn porn porn…

If I had a complaint about this movie, it’s with Don Jon himself. His entire persona is just too unbelievable. I know the point is not for us to idolize his shitty behaviour, but his whole deal is just way too far-fetched; particularly his complaints about the dating world. He insists that sex is unsatisfying and tame (“no doggy, no cowgirl, only missionary”). What? Is he living in the 1940s? Last I checked, there was nothing kinky about positions other than missionary. Maybe I hang out with edgier crowds than I realized. The point is that Don Jon compares everything in his sexual life to the porn he watches, and of course it never measures up. But I think there could be more realistic contrasts to draw than what they went with. It’s a small complaint, but it bothered me.

Gordon-Levitt and Johansson in "Don Jon"

The cast is superb together. I’m not a fan of Scarlett Johansson, but she’s just so deliciously hate-able in this. The best part is that you really don’t notice at first. It’s a subtle performance at times, and refreshing to see it from her. Julianne Moore is the real star, terrific as ever as the mentor/lover. Were the competition not already so thick this year, I could definitely see major awards coming her way. Even Tony Danza manages not to be horribly annoying. JGL is his usual charming self. Again, I’ve never been blown away by his acting, but he carries the film well. The real attention here should go to his script and his direction.

Porn porn porn porn. Workout. Porn porn porn…

The script is tight and clever. The humour is cute and edgy at the same time, and the drama seems real. It also serves up some actual surprises and doesn’t go the way you’d expect from a romantic-comedy/drama. JGL obviously has talent as a writer, and it’ll be interesting to see if he follows up with anything else, or goes the Matt Damon way and just shuts the hell up all at once. The direction is solid, and he yanks solid performances from everyone. It’s not a visual stunner, but these movies are never supposed to be. It still manages to deliver a a few impressive and interesting shots. It’s not nearly as boring to look at as some of the other romantic dreck this year.

Gordon-Levitt in "Don Jon"

This face. I hate this face.

All in all, “Don Jon” is solid, enjoyable, and refreshingly different from the other generic flicks in its sub-genre (can porn-romance be a new sub-genre?). JGL could have a pretty nice future ahead of him if he can follow up with a great second script, or direct a more demanding film. We’ll have to see. Until then, the film serves as a perfectly entertaining movie to show us the other side of the classic love story. And also teaches a valuable age-old lesson… Always delete your history.

My Rating: 8/10

Theatrical poster for "Don Jon"

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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