Review: Don Jon

Review: Don Jon

Aprile Rickert


“Don Jon”Don_Jon_Poster


Sept. 27, 2013


Synopsis: Don Jon, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, is called “Don” by his friends for his ability to bring home an attractive lady every night. He is is addicted to porn and dissatisfied with real-life women when he meets Barbara, Scarlett Johansson, a beautiful woman with a lust for romantic movies, and attempts to find true intimacy.



Directed by first-time filmmaker Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “Don Jon” is a crafty little picture with a lot of heart but not enough focus. Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote the script and plays beefy lady slayer “Don” Jon, doesn’t


waste any time opening the film at a breakneck pace. Running at a tight 90 minutes, the first act-and-a-half features some pretty unorthodox narrative filmmaking, utilizing media stock clips and narration to tell its story. I loved the way Gordon-Levitt initially opens: it’s fun, fast and energetic. There isn’t a lot of tracking shots or any innovative camera work. What shines is the director’s confidence in the handling of the performers and the assembly of the film itself.



The acting in “Don Jon” is top notch, from the main cast to the supporting players. Gordon-Levitt, who has turned in great performances for some of the best directors working today, plays Jon with confidence and precision. What really makes the character work is how he plays the vulnerabilities of “Don” Jon, not that Jon would ever let his boys, girls, family or church see it, but the audience gets a sense that he really wants more than the porn and one night stands.

Scarlett Johansson is also excellent in “Don Jon.” The actress simply devours the material at hand. Here she plays Barbara, a bombshell that has more than stolen the heart of “Don” Jon. A marvelous scene showcasing Johansson’s talent is when Barbara catches Jon “looking at emails.” If you have seen the trailers, you know the scene. The two argue their points, and Johansson shines as she refuses to give up ground to Jon’s porn perspective.

Other notable performers include a particularly calm and focused Julianne Moore, a highly entertaining and scene-stealing Tony Danza and Brie Larson, who has to have screen presence, only having lines in one scene of the film.



The script is the biggest problem with the movie. While opening strong, the film feels like less of a character study and more of a comment on the complexities of how modern media informs our desires, ideas and falsehood of reality. “Don” Jon has his male-powered porn; Barbara has her female-driven cinema, each using their perceived idea of the opposite sex to fill their respective voids and never really looking at the individual as a real flesh and blood person. I love this aspect of the script. The subject, and the way director Joseph Gordon-Levitt handles the material, prove that he is both seriously talented and extremely mature.

Then the script suddenly changes. Jon begins having particular revelations about how he lives his life: how he needs to change, how unreal his real really was. He begins to question his entire life and world after meeting Esther, played by Julianne Moore. It isn’t that I completely hated the change. The problem here is Jon’s transformation isn’t believable. There isn’t enough time in the tightly-edited film to round out Jon to a point that the switch is organic. Levitt wasted too much time on the social commentary for the audience to feel “Don” Jon isn’t more than a pawn in the writer-director’s lesson plan.

Ultimately, the writing in “Don Jon” is simply a mixed gym bag.

Bottom line: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Don Jon” is absolutely worth your time and money. For all its flaws, the film feels like an endeavor its triple-threat talent made with real passion. Though maybe not completely successful in its execution, there is still plenty of food for thought on display. Boasting solid performances throughout, I recommended the film to all, given you’re age appropriate, and highly recommend the experience to couples.