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March 2014

Don Jon

cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, and Glenne Headly

writer & director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

90 minutes (18) 2013
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Warner blu-ray region B

RATING: 4/10
review by Steven Hampton

Don Jon

Don Jon is a fairly standard comedy drama with a sincerely modern premise rather than an updated version of legendary Spanish libertine Don Juan. In his first starring role as his own writer and director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises, Looper) plays title character Jon Martello, and explores many of the crude and subtle differences between male and female fantasies in traditional and modern romance. It is a movie about lies and expectations, compromises and satisfaction, intimacy and fulfilment.

Confident but obnoxious womaniser Jon likes the nice but dopey Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) although he still prefers porn ("I'm not like a junkie. Come on, that's stupid") to lose himself in on a regular basis, no matter who he takes home on a Saturday night. As a basic Hollywood rom-com, Don Jon is mainly about the differences between getting who and what you wish for and settling for who and what's available.

The central themes of sex and modern love are interesting, of course - at least while they are centred on such charismatic leads - but their characters and the scenario are simply too contrived, especially in catholic Jon's automatic forgiveness in confession ("I really thought there was gonna be a difference this week"). The pivotal character, and the woman who actually changes Jon's shallow outlook on life, is emotionally damaged widow Esther (Julianne Moore), who seems far more like a real honest-to-goodness personality than vacuous blonde Barbara, and yet hapless Jon lacks the intelligence required to see her potential, at first.

As he proved by his portrayal of porn-fanboy Bert Rodriguez in Sebastian Gutierrez's Elektra Luxx (2010), Gordon-Levitt is particularly adept in sex comedy roles. Don Jon shows that he's obviously keen to go further with such material, in serious drama that examines disparity of male and macho roles today. However, this typical debut was a Sundance premiere and it's too gimmicky in its mixed-up scenes of lust and media and clubbing and family stereotypes. It certainly passes the time, and is entertaining enough, but it's not particularly imaginative fare.

Most amusingly, Jon's younger sister Monica (Brie Larson) does not say much at all, but is very sharply observant and so, not surprisingly, she's the most profoundly intelligent character in the whole movie. Sadly, however, nobody in Jon's absurdly Italian-American sitcom styled family (headed by Tony Danza and Glenne Headly) ever asked what she thought of Barbara until after the uneven relationship was over. If they had, that would have made Don Jon a much shorter story. So...



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