Don Jon Review
Written, directed and starring the impervious Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon grows into its taboo subject matter to leave a meaningful social commentary on modern relationships, sex and life in general.
Oddly, despite society constantly bemoaning the over sexualised nature of everything, probably purely down to Mylie Cyrus gyrating round construction sites, there is seldom any evidence of film or television addressing the very nature or sex and relationships beyond using is at as marketing weapon to sell moving pictures.
Steve McQueen’s Shame, starring Michael Fassbender as rampant sex addict, failed to utilise the subject matter to anything more than to shock, answers as to why the protagonist had ended up in this soulless cycle of sex were omitted.
It seems Levitt has noticed this glaring opening in the market, using Don Jon he’s made a meaningful, light hearted, story centred on what the modern world’s desires and expectations for relationships is.
Levitt stars as ‘Don’ Jon Martello, Don for his success with the ladies, a man who boils is life down to several simple things- “There’s only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.”
Jon’s unhealthy fascination with porn has left him wanting when it comes to real sex, nothing it seems can compare to the uncomplicated, perfect realisation of sex in porn. While getting hard to the Apple computer start up sound seems bizarre it doesn’t affect Jon, that is until he meets “dime” Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and starts a relationship. The rom com inspired Barbara sees Jon through the rose tinted glasses of romantic heroes leading to an inevitable clash of ideologies when their two deluded expectations of each other meet.
Vulgarity plagues the film’s opening, objectification of woman and cringe worthy comments about sex and porn fill Jon’s dialogue. Uncomfortable and deplorable as it is it’s nothing new, in fact it’s a truthful portrayal of many young men’s mind, just watch Jersey and Geordie Shore for glaring evidence. On the excessive side, but so is most of the film’s characters, Jon’s views shouldn’t be taken as indicative of the film but an example of the state of nation, set up for purpose of unravelling later on.
Juxtaposing Jon and Barbara’s expectations is a clever ploy, by doing so the film avoids taking sides and bashing one sex’s views over another. Clearly not every relationship is as turbulent as theirs, it’s unlikely many boyfriends get berated for wanting to clean. The duality of relationships is unfortunately diminished as the narrative hugs Levitt, leaving Barbara to fade into the backdrop and their steamy chemistry to evaporate away.
Slickly directed and edited throughout, Levitt makes Jon’s life an impressively automated and rhythmic routine, constantly we find ourselves following him up to the stairs to church, seeing the same view of the cross before the camera pans across his family, sat in the same places each time. The level of circular repetition is like Groundhog Day, so predictable is Jon’s life, down to his weekly bouts of road rage. Done wrong this duplication becomes inordinately tedious, but Levitt grasps the concept expertly making it an effective way of exploring the way external changes impact Jon’s life as well as how he grows in stature from his discourteous beginnings.
Against the smart production the acting in Don Jon seems too over the top to be taken seriously. Jon’s family are the film’s worst offenders- his mother (Glenne Headly) a wailing banshee obsessed with Jon’s love life, father (Tony Danza) is a stereotypically hot headed Italian American and his sister (Brie Larson) fails to deviate from her smartphone. It’s only mature college classmate of Jon’s, Esther (Julianne Moore), who gives a convincing display bulked out with real sentiment and feeling that doesn’t sink into a stereotype.
The character’s may be caricatures of reality but it works in the framework of Don Jon, the strong, evident personalities all fill a specific role in contemporary society. These roles are forcefully overplayed but they each drive home a point, the critical look at society’s dynamics works in the end, getting Levitt’s point across without any chance of being miscued.
The brash beginnings of Don Jon soon disappear, the censored sex scenes a testament to its middle of the road target, leaving an amusing, definitely not funny, and thought provoking film. Much like the Levitt starring 50/50, Don Jon is difficult to categorise, addressing a taboo issue, like the former’s cancer driven narrative, it’s daring filmmaking and the sort of social commentary that is often overlooked.
In the end Don Jon supplies a slightly wishy washy concluding point that doesn’t fill Levitt’s lofty ambitions. Only reading about Japan’s dwindling relationships or over-sexualised singers makes Don Jon a firmly relevant film showing Levitt has his finger firmly on the pulse along with a creative, clever mind for direction. Don Jon will do no damage to his career, only furthering his image as the all-round nice guy of Hollywood.
7.5/10- More Capo than Don Jon
- Non-Review Review: Don Jon (them0vieblog.com)
- Don Jon, The Review – Is This Film A Perfect 10? (nerdlikeyou.com)
- UK Movie Reviews Special: Dom Hemingway, The Butler, Don Jon, The Counsellor (contactmusic.com)
- Don Jon Review “A proper dick flick” (paisleytalksfilm.wordpress.com)