Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Reel Review: DON JON

DON JON, the directorial debut from actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a fun and sexy romp which takes a look at love and lust, romance and sex, and the dangers of being too comfortable in our routines. It is often obscene and slightly flawed, but very well-intentioned.
Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a ladies’ man who shags a new girl every weekend, but still finds more gratification in beating off to online porn. His world is turned upside down when he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a beautiful and old-fashioned girl who disapproves of porn.

DON JON sets itself up as a standard boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl tale. What makes the familiar storyline feel fresh is the added element of obsession. Jon is a man who is obsessed with porn and his self-centered lifestyle; which focuses on his porn addiction, his exercise routines, his car and his apartment. Jon is unwilling, and unable to let go of those addictions and alter his daily routines, so when Barbara, whom he falls for, enters the picture and begins changing things, it makes for excellent drama and character development. This is the heart and soul of DON JON and it works very well.
However, once Barbara gets wise to Jon’s porn addiction, things kind of screech to a halt. Jon eventually finds solace in Esther (Julianne Moore), a widow who brings sound advice via her experiences to Jon. At this point the film turns into a lecture hall as it endlessly monologues into debates over sex and lust. While the effort is well-intentioned, it gets dull in a big hurry.

But there is still a lot to enjoy in DON JON. Joseph Gordon-Levitt keeps the pacing brisk for the most part, and the editing is sharp and fun; making the film a blast to sit through despite a few sloggy parts in the story.
Performances are tremendous. The chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson is tremendous; they both light up the screen and nail their New Jersey accents perfectly. Julianne Moore is as good as ever, and the show is nearly stolen by an electrified Tony Danza, who plays Jon’s father. You can’t get enough of Danza, and he is matched very well by veteran actress Glenne Headly, who plays Jon’s mother.

DON JON’s climax eventually comes by way of a slow build as opposed to a hot geyser. The film loses a lot of its momentum in the third act, but there is still a great amount of satisfaction to be had in the morning after. DON JON is probably not for everybody with all the sex and sex talk, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows some tremendous promise in his debut, one that we would love to shag up with again.


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