If you see the title of this film and think, “How lovely! A modern remake of Molière’s iconic play!” then this is the wrong movie for you. Don Jon has a very narrow and specific target audience, and if you show up anticipating a drama with heavy morals on the moderation of romance, I am terribly sorry, but I fear you may be in for a rather crude surprise. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film is, for the most part, inventive and original, it comes with very rough edges and I warn anyone heading out to see it that porn isn’t just a feature, it is everywhere and always. Censor warning aside, I have to applaud Gordon-Levitt’s fresh directive perspective, and say that Don Jon is a flashy comedy – in more than one way.
The first third of the film was spectacular. It was all snappy shots, fresh angles, and lovably imperfect characters. Gordon-Levitt has a knack for directing and I hope that this sparks the beginning of a long career behind the camera as well as in front of it. The camera, speaking of which, loves him. It follows him and only him for the entire movie. Start to finish. No breaks. If you like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and are going to see Don Jon just for him, you will not be disappointed, although you may see more of the lad from 3rd Rock from the Sun than you originally planned on seeing.
His co-star, Scarlett Johansson, however, has her ups and downs. She’s gorgeous, yes, that’s been proven by more than one magazine cover, but her character gets stuck as the movie progresses. Once you get over the fact that she can rock a spandex dress like no other, you realize her character has very little else going for her. (Plot spoiler): Since the character is supposed to lean on the side of irritating, I suppose Johansson is a complete success, but her constant “baby” this and “baby” that was so unbearable I nearly used my M&M’s for earplugs. (All clear).
So what happened in the last two thirds of the film to slow down Gordon-Levitt’s firecracker of an opening? In a word: repetition. The film has a structure like a rubric. It’s a pattern that Jon (Gordon-Levitt) sets up in the monologue intro. There’s his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, and his porn, and the entire film follows these like a format, to the tee, almost in order. It very rarely breaks away from one of said subjects, so, when I say it gets a little repetitive, I’m sure you can see why. Some moments were made funnier by the repetition, like his varied ways of walking down the gym hallway, or the repeatedly successful way he picks up girls at the bar, but others had a very I-get-it-now-move-on kind of feeling to them. Like the constant shots of porn, whether in full laptop-screen fashion or as unexpected, nearly subliminal flashes. While other repeated quirks were fun, like the start-up sound of a Mac signalling go-time, others just made the film predictable and a little sluggish.
The last third of the film introduced Julianne Moore. While I respect her as an actress and her powerful ability to cry on demand, I felt that she was too complex and important a character to leave until the end of the film. She was introduced at a random time and kept making random appearances that didn’t seem to fit with the story at all. Unlike all the other characters who were unique, well-placed, and purpose-serving right from the start, her character seemed completely pointless for most of the feature. (Plot spoiler): Also, her relationship with Jon was, honestly, just kind of creepy. I understand the reason behind it, but watching the two of them on screen was like catching your mom with the pool boy. (All clear).
I’m hesitant to give Don Jon a bad review because the first third was so funny, quick, and inventive, and because there was such a good connection between the writing, the direction, and the cameras. It is, however, a creative casserole of hilarity, vulgarity, narcissism, and bad habits, and such a meal may not be to everyone’s taste. Don Jon is definitely a film designed to entertain 20-something-year-old boys. It is an excellent start to Gordon-Levitt’s career behind the camera, and I can see great potential in his style, but my final verdict for Don Jon would have to be 24 suspiciously crumpled Kleenexes out of 32.