Don Jon (2013)


The Jersay Sha craze ain’t ova yet!

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) likes to think of himself as the modern-day Don Juan, and with all of the game he’s got, how could he not?!?! Not only does he bed some of hottest women all of New Jersey has to offer, but he’s also got a pretty nice body, charming personality, well-off job as a bartender, sweet moves on the dance-floor, and cleans his house non-stop, as if it was his morning day ritual. Actually, what am I talking about? It is! However, thrown into the mix is his fair share of porn that he can’t stop watching and loving, all for the sake that it gives him the sort of “real” feeling he can’t get with actual, real-life sex. You know, with a normal human-being. But all that begins to change when he meets the girl of his dreams in the form of Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and realizes that he needs to quit his addiction if he wants to settle down and get serious with this girl. But if you’ve spent most of your adult-life jackin’ it on the daily, it’s a little easier said then done.

I have to admit, as much as I am a whole-hearted fan of JGL’s, even I snickered a bit when I heard that he would not only be writing and directing a movie that’s practically about the modern-day version of Don Juan, but that he would be starring in that role! The guy doesn’t have the hottest looks out there, and it would seem almost too hard to take in the same kid from 3rd Rock as this total sex-machine that gets any girl he wants, when he wants, and how he wants it (sometimes). What my point is, is that it seemed like it was going to be too hard to buy into JGL being this sexy, stud-muffin, but he surprisingly made me think otherwise.

And not just because of his performance either (no matter how good it is); his direction and writing also have a little something to do with that as well.

It's those ladies in red that always get you when you're high-tailing it at the club.
It’s those ladies in red that always get you when you’re high-tailing it at the club.

What I liked so much about JGL’s direction is that he does tend to go for the flashiness of his material more than often, but that was fine because it showed that the dude had a way to convey whatever it was that he wanted about his story, and it could totally be understood by the audience. Certain audio-cues, visual-gags, and even lines will be repeated in a way that makes you see what he’s trying to do as a director, while also have you realize that the repetitive nature of the movie is done on purpose, almost, in a way, to show you how dull and meandering Jon’s life can be at times.

He goes, day in and day out, with the same old routine: He wakes up, jacks off, cleans his house, jacks off, goes to the gym, jacks off, gets dressed for a night out on the town, jacks off, picks up a sweet honey, takes her home, rightfully bangs her, but as soon as it’s over, he’s right back to jacking off. The only time that routine shows any signs of changing is on Sunday when he wakes up, jacks off, yells at the fellow drivers on the road, goes to church, asks to be resolved of his sins (which mostly concerns jacking off and pre-marital sex), goes back to his family’s house, argues with them, goes home, and jacks off some more, basically continuing the cycle he had once before.

While this may all seem like it gets boring after seeing it 10 times for the first 5 or 6 minutes, JGL finds a way to keep on spinning it in a way that’s interesting, as well as entertaining. Interesting, because it gives us a further glimpse into the character of Jon, all that he does, and how much of a waste his life seems to be, despite him not being able to notice; and entertaining, well, because the movie’s pretty damn funny when it wants to be, especially when it’s showing the more painful realities of sex, especially when somebody uses it more as recreation, rather than love, or to feel love. Basically, it was a bold choice on the part of JGL’s, but he shows us that he’s capable of making material work and be understood by its audience, even if he is doing the same thing over and over again. It has a point though, and I think that’s where I give most of the credit to JGL in terms of his writing and direction coming together.

Nice job, bud! Always knew you had it in ya!

However, after the middle act, it becomes abundantly clear to us that this is in fact JGL’s first movie behind the camera and typewriter, as it does get very, very messy towards the end as it begins to substitute laughs and jokes, for more melodrama and insight, despite it not really working out well. There’s something that happens about half-way through the movie that feels like it’s routine and generic, just so that JGL’s story can prove something known about how predictable rom-coms are, but it somehow doesn’t play-out that way. Can’t say what it is, but what I can say is that it’s a surprising step that he took with this material, and initially, made it very interesting. But then it begins to play itself out, lose some of its personality, and before you know it, you have a movie that doesn’t know how to end, what to say, or even what it’s whole product leading up to this final minute was supposed to mean to. We know what it’s supposed to mean to Jon, but what about to us? I don’t know, I feel like I’m treading some very thin ice here because I’m coming very close to giving away what the hell happens in the middle, but for the sake of my loyal readers out there, I just won’t. But when you do see this movie, you’ll understand and you may see my point. And if not, well, then I’m just an idiot. So be it.

Just look at him. So proud that he got Julianne Moore in his movie. Smug bastard.
Just look at him. So proud that he got Julianne Moore in his movie. Smug bastard.

But anyway, back to the good things that JGL actually pulls of with this movie, and the main one being is his performance as Jon. Like I said before, it seemed like a total ego trip coming from a guy who seemed like he had enough sense not to get too deep into his own head, but the dude shut me right up once I heard him talk and act. JGL totally becomes Don Jon, in every sense of the word: He’s in good-shape, tan, got that Jersay-accent going on, seems smooth and slick with the ladies, and makes you believe he could really pull these many ladies back to his crib, only to then start jerking the curtain behind their backs after he’s done with them. Yes, the “porno addiction”-angle does seem a bit far-fetched at times, but JGL makes enough sense of this flaw in Jon’s view-point that you can easily get past it all. All that matters is that JGl was able to make us believe him as a tuned-up, sexy mofo, and he succeeds. Good on his part. Once again, can’t believe I ever doubted him in the first place.

The rest of the cast seems as willing to go along with the material as JGL is, even if most of them have goofier, more over-the-top roles. Scarlett Johansson does well with the part of a spoiled, Jersey girl who’s so used to getting anything that she wants based on her looks, and provides us a nice foil for Jon’s character, making it interesting to see how they both play-out as a couple, rather than just two young, horny people that can’t get enough of one another’s good-looks. Not to mention, she looks insanely hot here, but you knew that already. Julianne Moore’s role as Edith, a woman who goes to night-classes with Jon may at first, seem like a lame role for an actress of her stature, but once the story gets going and we start to see more of her, we realize that she’s great in the movie, even if her character seems more like a contrivance, rather than actual living, breathing person. That’s enough of that, though, as I’m heading into some spoiler-ish material.

Also worth mentioning is everybody that plays Jon’s family: Tony Danza, Brie Larson, and Glenne Headly. Danza has never been funnier as the scuzzy, but charming dad that’s exactly like Jon in every which way, with the exception of the grey hair and saggy skin; Headly is a bunch of fun as the high-strung, overly needy mother; and Larson, who’s been having a stellar year so far, proves to us that she’s the most interesting character in a film, even when she only has one line in it. Can’t wait to see more from this girl, and if you want to know why, just read my Short Term 12 review. Please.

Consensus: Being that Don Jon is JGL’s directorial debut, you can excuse some of the messiness that occurs in the last 20 minutes or so, but instead take notice of just how funny, clever, and thoughtful the movie is way before that, showing that the guy has some serious skills behind the camera, as well as in front, even when he is playing against-type.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"We da family. Say cheeeeezzzzeee!"
“We da family!! Say cheeeeezzzzeee!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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17 comments

  1. Good review, Dan. The ending could’ve been wrapped up a bit better and JGL’s friends were a bit more cartoonish than they needed to be, but I still laughed a lot and it made me believe Gordon-Levitt’s got potential as a filmmaker. I totally agree with you on the family. I loved Danza and Headly as his parents. Larson was good, but I felt the gag with her had a predictable payoff I saw coming. I do agree though that she’s a terrific actress and I too look forward to more of her in the future.

  2. I really liked this movie. I just watched it for a second time last night and it is probably my favorite movie of the year so far. I know that might sound a bit weird but I was really into this movie and where it went.

  3. Really hyped up for this. Love the trailer. Sounds like JGL has a lot of ideas but doesn’t effectively communicate them all. Still, for a debut it sounds like he has a lot of potential.

  4. Excellent review, Dan! I especially like your thoughtful discussion of JGL’s directorial style. This movie doesn’t really sound like my cup of tea, and one of the reasons I’ve always been a fan of JGL is that he didn’t seem to feel the need to play sexy stud roles. Oh well. 🙂 But even with JGL’s novice mistakes, it does sound worth checking out. I’ll take your advice and wait ’til it comes to rental.

  5. Just watched this one last night and felt this was a decent directorial debut. I really liked some of the shots he created. Also enjoyed his sister txting all the time and Tony Danza was pretty great. Where the hell has he been? Nice write up Dan.

  6. Good review Dan. I think if you’re having a hard time thinking of JGL a ladies man, then you probably don’t have enough female friends haha. All of mine think he’s dreamy. It’s a great directing debut from him though. Very funny and poignant with good messages about relationships (not just romantic ones). I love his confidence behind the camera and the very stream of consciousness feel that it has. Slightly reminiscent of Rules of Attraction. He takes some risks and not all of them work, but credit to him for putting himself out there. A lot of people go on about how it “fell apart” near the end. I don’t think it focused enough on his relationship with Moore, although I didn’t think the end blew it that bad. It wrapped things up without putting too neat of a bow on everything.

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