Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Rated R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use
Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:
In what would make an excellent double feature with Steve McQueen’s extremely depressing and unfortunately flawed (by way of Carey Mulligan) “Shame”, “Don Jon”, an at times equally graphic (just with no full frontal) film (written and directed by and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tells the story of a Don Juan-type Jersey boy, named Jon, who states that he only cares about a few things in life; his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and most of all, his porn. But when he meets the girl of his dreams, played by Scarlett Johansson, who also just happens to absolutely detest pornography, Jon is forced to confront his porn addiction head on.
Side Note: While the subject matter of “Don Jon” isn’t solely fixated on internet porn addiction (it brings up interesting criticisms on everything from sexual images in the media, to the unhealthy nature of the “chick flick”, to a quite scathing look at how outdated the Catholic church (or any religious institution for that matter) seems to be when it comes to dealing with the young people of today) it mostly is about porn addiction, so viewer beware. This movie earns its R rating.
The fact that the trailers make it seem like this is going to be some kind of romantic comedy, is a bit of a misnomer. While “Don Jon” does deliver instances of “funny”, as it moves forward and Levitt’s character becomes more realized and less cartoonish, the movie fully abandons the comedic for the serious and quite dark (still, not as dark as “Shame”, but more than likely darker than a majority of audiences will have expected).
“Don Jon” is pretty much a movie of two halves. The first, I will refer to as the Scarlett Johansson half, and the second, the Julianne Moore half. The Johansson portion is quite funny and entertaining, as we watch Jon attempt to juggle a girlfriend alongside his “personal activities” (basically, everything you see in the trailers). The issue with this half is that it never feels authentic enough to be taken all that seriously. Now, once Moore’s character enters the picture, “Don Jon” becomes not just a particularly poignant film, but nearly flawless. During this aforementioned “darker” (or more dramatic) section, we follow Jon as he discovers the effects of pornography on his intimacy and overall interactions with women.
The greatest triumphs to come out of “Don Jon”, other than a hilarious supporting performance from Tony Danza playing Jon’s father, are the long stretches of back-and-forth’s between characters. I must praise Levitt for constructing a script full of scary realistic and ultimately award worthy conversational dialogue.
On the other hand, Levitt’s direction is this films major (and only) flaw. While it’s obvious that the abundance of flashy music video-esque editing ploys he uses serve a purpose, it all comes across as a bit too stylized; a kind of, style before substance. Also, many of the activities preformed by the characters are intentionally over-the-top, but are filmed in a very forced and ultimately contrived way, which gets in the way of a rather interesting story. And I won’t even mention the rather abrupt ending (oops, I just did).
Final Thought: Overall, “Don Jon” is one that did surprise me by how much I liked it, in sort of the same way as last year’s “Magic Mike” had; a movie that I was expecting only vapid-ness from, but got a film full of substance and subtext. No, “Don Jon” isn’t as good as “Magic Mike”, but it was better than “Shame” and that is saying something for a first time writer/director.
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