Movie Review: Don Jon

Last Friday my friends and I went to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first attempt at writing, directing and starring in a film.

The results were okay!

If you haven’t heard of the film basically a porn addict meets a girl who likes romantic comedies and we, the audience, learn about life.

[ Sidebar: JGL has one of the most 90’s celebrity triple-names ever. He is also one of the most likeable celebrities! The male Jennifer Lawrence? If you can’t get enough of the cutie, check out The Lookout, it’s unreal. ]

At the beginning I was on board: caricatures (rather than characters) filled the screen in clever, satirical scenarios that contrasted club culture and Jersey Joisey life with family values and religion. Obvious jabs at the Jersey Shore phenomenon, contemporary media saturation (in various formats – online video, social media, TV, cellphone), and the Catholic church made me think that JGL had tapped into something witty, even if the “Gym Tan Laundry” format got a bit stale the 4th time around.

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Scarlett Johansson pulls off Jersey girl surprisingly well and is convincingly unlikeable. JGL retains his charm (although this may be where things went awry for me) through his “Situation” (or is it Pauly D?) character, crazy haircut and all. My favourite aspect of his performance was his “pumped up” walk – hilarious!

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Tony Danza is perfect as the macho-asshole father and, although sadly underutilized, Brie Larson is spot on as Jon’s younger sister. The rest of the supporting cast is negligible, with the exception of Julianne Moore, who plays the character you expect (sexual hippie-type woman who is pseudo-rebellious and flawed but with a good heart).

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Things got a bit less enjoyable as the film tried to live up to the “happy ending” promised on the posters.

Instead of staying true to the top-level satire, Julianne Moore was introduced to bring some 3-dimensional humanity to the story. The effect was a rushed bond that felt disjointed from the rest of the film in terms of tone and style.

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Clearly, this was the point – as Don Jon undergoes transformation, so does the format and feeling of the film, no longer book ended by the reliable sound of a Mac rebooting. The new Jon just didn’t feel real, instead coming across as a way to please audiences that may not have appreciated the understated humor in the first part of the film.

One thing is certain: JGL knows his audience. Knowing your audience and making a great film are different though, and for his first effort, I give Don Jon a 6.5/10.

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