Movies – Don Jon

27 Sep

Very soon now, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going to be recognized as one of the premier young actors of his generation.

It may not have been apparent in Third Rock From The Sun, in which he played Tommy, the oldest member of the crew, stuck in the youngest Earthling body. It may not have been apparent in (500) Days of Summer, the anti-RomCom in which he fell into and out of love with the prototypical manic pixie dream girl, Zooey Deschanel. Or in the dark comedy 50/50 or summer sci fi blockbusters Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Looper or Oscar-nominated Lincoln, or any of his other 60 film and television credits.

But if there was any doubt of his versatility and talent, there shouldn’t be. Not anymore. Not after Don Jon.

Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed Don Jon, and also stars as Jon Martello, the quintessential Goombah, who cares about only a few things in life (as he says in the beginning of the movie): “My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.”

Yep. His porn. Despite his success with women (and he’s on a roll, seducing and bedding an unprecedented string of “10s”, which earns him the nickname “Don Jon”), the only time he’s truly gratified is watching porn on the internet.

When he meets Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson), everything changes for him. She does not jump into bed with him the night they meet and, in fact, goes home from the club without him. For once, he actually has to pursue her, and when he does, it’s with spectacular results; the girl he catches is funny, smart, and drop-dead gorgeous, and pushes him to become a better person. As part of that self-improvement, he enrolls in a night class, where he meets Esther (Julianne Moore), a fragile, damaged woman who is in many ways the opposite of Barbara, but who touches Jonny nonetheless. The two women’s reactions to Jonny’s porn addiction are polar opposites, but realistic and hilarious.

Don Jon is a wonderful movie, starting with the three main performances. Gordon-Levitt so fully inhabits the persona of Jonny that one would think he’d been plucked directly from the Jersey Shore to star in the movie, if it weren’t for the aforementioned long line of sterling performances behind him. He takes what could be a stereotypical “dese-dem-doze” character and imbues him with a heart and life that makes him instantly loveable, the kind of guy that you can root for. As the two opposite female leads, Johansson shines as a girl who knows what she wants and how to get it, and Moore glows as the older woman who had what she wanted and lost it.

The trio is supported by another amazing trio, Glenne Headly, as Jonny’s oh-so-Italian mom, an amazingly (disturbingly?) ripped Tony Danza as the father who makes it clear where Jonny’s personality was formed, and Brie Larson as his younger sister Monica, whose nose is perpetually buried in her cell phone. Larson in particular serves much the same role as Kevin Smith’s Silent Bob served in many of Smith’s Jersey movies; she doesn’t say much, but when she does speak, pay attention. The rest of the cast is serviceable but not particularly memorable, save three cameo appearances when Jonny and Barbara go on a movie date.

Don Jon is not a perfect movie, and it’s not for everyone; there is a lot of talk about sex, particularly masturbation. And while the nudity in the film is restricted to brief clips from Jonny’s porn sites, it is there, as are a few brief (non-nude) sex scenes. Gordon-Levitt shows skill as a writer and promise as a director, with the movie well structured and paced, though he may go to one sight-gag a few times too many.

All in all, if you can get past the subject matter and the language that goes with it, I can’t recommend this film highly enough. I’ll give it 8 Cheeseburgers.


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