** (out of 5)
September 27, 2013
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as JON
Scarlett Johansson as BARBARA
Julianne Moore as ESTHER
Tony Danza as JON SR.
Glenne Headly as ANGELA
Brie Larson as MONICA
Rob Brown as BOBBY
Jeremy Luke as DANNY
Studio: Relativity Media
Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
To me, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the acting equivalent of Joss Whedon. I don’t hate the guy’s work, but I don’t think he walks on water, either. Just as I enjoyed some of what Whedon has done (namely products like “The Avengers” and “The Cabin in the Woods”) but didn’t care for others (yeah, I’m that guy who didn’t like “Firefly”), I think Gordon-Levitt has done some great things (like “50/50” and “Looper”) but other things I didn’t like (and yeah, I’m also that guy who didn’t like “(500) Days of Summer”).
It’s because of this that I approached “Don Jon” very cautiously. The trailers alone splatter across the screen the fact that this is Gordon-Levitt’s writing and directorial debut before it even gives you a hint about the movie. It’s as if that fact was more important than the content of the movie itself.
At least in this instance, the trailer didn’t lie.
When you look past the oohs and ahhs about “Don Jon” being Gordon-Levitt’s movie cotillion, it’s a painfully superficial and paint-by-numbers story that offers very little character development. Though you wouldn’t necessarily expect this through all the flash the movie carries.
“Don Jon” is about a “Jersey Shore” type named Jon (Gordon-Levitt), who only cares about a few things: his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and his porn. However, when he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), another “Jersey Shore” type, she puts her foot down and doesn’t want him watching any more porn. This leads Jon to struggle with reconciling his near-perfect fantasies with the reality of a relationship.
Stripping away all the flash that comes with a directorial debut, the story doesn’t have much to say. Oh, it tries to say a lot, but what it does say isn’t very deep and amounts to the basic message of a standard Disney movie… without the porn.
>“Don Jon” reminds me of Kevin Smith’s “Dogma,” about which I have heard non-stop praise for its bold ideas (e.g., what if God is a woman, what if Jesus was black, etc.). However, these are ideas that are neither profound or deep. Instead, they’re the subject of many a late-night dorm-room conversation by sleep-deprived undergrads. Just because Kevin Smith thought they were genius contemplations doesn’t make them so. Similarly, Gordon-Levitt thinking his message of true intimacy is anything more than superficial in itself is foolish.
I couldn’t even swallow “Don Jon” as a comedy because there was very little likeable about anyone in the film. I know this was the point with a character like Barbara, but the revelation of her a bad person is so underhanded (and also derivative of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks.”) that it barely negates all the accolades she receives through most of the movie.
I know there are real people out there like Jon, just as there are plenty of idiots like the ones that appear on “Jersey Shore,” but that doesn’t make them good characters. There’s no depth to Jon, and he comes across even at the end as socially deficient man-child.
While it has some good moments, “Don Jon” is in love with itself as much as the title character is with himself. Fans of Joseph Gordon-Levitt should love this movie, but for me, it feels exactly like a first-time writing and directing effort by an actor who tends to be that indie darling.