Kyle J. Steenblik

Don Jon [Review]

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Everyone loves a happy ending, and everyone should love Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first feature length directorial debut is also his entry into the role of writer.  Both of these debuts are phenomenally successful.  The film was hilarious, poignant, and the performances were spot-on.  Now it was not a perfect film, nor is it a film that will have a very broad appeal.  I know many people will have hard time with the subject matter, and I know some that wouldn’t’ be able to tolerate the characters.  Those people should avoid this movie, or, better yet, they should step outside their comfort zones and receive a very pleasant surprise.  This is a very new kind of romantic comedy, that is not really a romantic comedy, but it is.

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a specific type of Jersey guy; you know the brand so there is no need to toss out labels.  So this Jersey douche, but still a nice kind of, but still douchy, kind of guy, sees himself as a modern day Don Juan, and so do his friends.  He, being the stereotypical kind of guy he is, has only a few things he really cares about in life.  His body, his pad, his bros, his family (Glenne Headly as Angela Martello (mother), Tony Danza as Jon Martello, Sr. (father), Brie Larson as Monica Martello(sister)), his church, his girls, and his porn, especially his porn.  His life revolves around these things, and his relationships are all brief (one night) and he prides himself on a new one each week.  However, that changes when he decides to try for a perfect 10, a dime, as he calls her.  Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is no ordinary girl; she is used to getting her own way, and as good at playing the game as Jon.

Jon is not one that takes rejection lightly, so he pursues, and starts a relationship with Barbara.  She has rules, conditions, and requirements, and Jon, eager to bag his dime, follows her every request, including going back to school where he meets Esther (Julianne Moore).  But Jon can’t give up his porn, and this leads to him discovering more about life and love.

Everyone is fantastic in this movie.  Most surprisingly is Tony Danza.  Not surprising that he did a good job, the man is as seasoned a veteran as you can find, but that he is funny.  I don’t think he has been this good since his days on Taxi.  Less surprising and more satisfyingly pleasing is Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  As writer, director and star of this movie it’s safe to say he carried the entire production on his shoulders, and he carried it incredibly well.  What impressed me most was how he treated the subject matter.  A story about a guy from Jersey addicted to porn trying to figure out relationships could easily slip into Kevin Smith style raunchy comedy.  Instead, it slides deep into a serious comedy where the raunchy aspects of the subject matter are simply supporting features of the story.

Since I mention Kevin Smith, I do need to say the style reminded me very much of Smith’s early work, but with characters you would more readily find in the real world.  There were many similarities in the style, and pacing of the dialogue.  Much of that is due, in part, to the natural style and pacing of the dialects found in New Jersey.  I’m not sure if those similarities to Smith were intentional, or incidental, but they were good.  Another shining spot of this film is Julianne Moore.  She is the true catalyst that drives this story, and her performance is as subtle as it was brazen.  I am now convinced I need to reexamine her body of work because I am sure I have seriously underrated her.

Don Jon deserves 4.5 out of 5 tissues, for awkward moments, hilariously uncomfortable laugher, and a romantic comedy for the guys.  (This is not really a romantic comedy, but it is)

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