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If you are one of the few who haven’t been force fed a Don Jon commercial, advertisement or trailer in recent months, I’m pretty sure the NSA probably doesn’t know where you are. With that said, though, it is hard to not be interested with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson and even Tony Danza, who hasn’t really been in much as of late, in the movie. Also, considering this is Gordon-Levitt’s first go at writing and directing a feature film, there is also that added bit of intrigue.
Now, something you’ll notice about Don Jon is that most characters feel like a slight stereotype, especially those in Jon’s family. Jon (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has the makings of a stereotypical Jersey Italian who easily could have been part of the Jersey Shore show. He is aggressive, likes keeping things prim and proper, sees himself as a ladies man, and yet seems like the life he lives isn’t the most satisfying. I mean, perhaps it is his porn addiction doing him in or maybe the fact he hasn’t found the right one, supposedly?
So, enter Barbara (played by Scarlett Johansson), who unfortunately is sporting a ridiculous Italian-like accent as Gordon-Levitt. With her, we begin to really see past what the trailer has us focus on in terms of Jon being into his pad, his body, his ride, his church, his family, his girls, and his porn. With her entering in the film, we begin to realize that the porn probably is the most important thing to him to the point where it has basically shaped his view of women. He isn’t alone, though, Barbara also has an issue, but rather than it be porn, it is with romance movies. So, while Jon has an unrealistic, and as Esther (played by Julianne Moore) says, a one-sided view of sex and relationships, Barbara has the same issue. But, what got her is the way romance films, and probably Disney films when she was a kid, have affected how she views sex and relationships.
The film as a whole though doesn’t really try to analyze male culture in terms of how pornography has a psychological effect on men’s mind, nor how romance movies create an unrealistic expectation of women’s minds, if anything it is just a comedy which sort of evolves. The beginning of the movie is very comical, though not in a way where the jokes are set up to hit you hard like The Heat or This Is The End. The film instead has the type of comedy which won’t get the whole theater roaring with laughter but will make a handful laugh. Which isn’t a big problem for the story stays pretty consistent, in terms of entertaining you and though Gordon-Levitt hasn’t always had the best track record when playing a lead character, you can see he is really starting to gain a confidence and charm which could easily put him in the position of being a go-to for film directors.
I have to say, though, the transition in this film from it being a light comedy to it beginning to analyze Jon as a character was a little rough at first, if just because Esther was the catalyst for this and she didn’t smoothly come in, but sort of barged her way in. Once you get used to her, though, she is alright, even though she had something really dramatic happen to her which doesn’t necessarily make you feel sorry for her, but some sort of awkward. Also, I wasn’t fond of how many times the movie decided to do these flashing scenes, not of bodies, where it would literally blind you for a good few seconds and I’m sure staring at the screen could give some people a seizure. And lastly, I must note, I am not sure why they gave Brie Larson such a small and strange role in this film. She for nearly the entire film is on her phone, delivers one line which presents the whole idea that Barbara has the whole princess in a fairy tale issue, and that is it. I mean, perhaps her being on the phone all the time was supposed to be a running gag, but it wasn’t that funny.
Overall: Worth Seeing
I would not say to run out and see the film immediately. Truth be told, I only counted about 13 laughs through the movie, and none of them were the type I couldn’t hold back. They were just little chuckles. But, set aside the expectation for a comedy and you really have an interesting film. Though it presents itself like every other romantic comedy in terms of the guy meeting the girl, falling in love, breakup at climax and reconciliation, it diverts from this and even pokes fun at it a bit. And what I like the most is it approaches the idea of trying to understand how and why a person goes monogamous, without looking at it from the “It is time for me to settle down” route. Instead, it focuses on how porn and romance movies shape our expectations and how those expectations have an influence on what we seek out. Jon is looking for a girl who wants to have sex like a porn star and Barbara is looking for the guy marketed to girls in romance movies. Both are sort of in la la land and Esther helps save Jon from keeping up his routine by helping him understand the difference from the difference between how they have sex in porn to what it is to make love to a woman. It all is fascinating stuff and that is why I think the film is worth seeing.