TIFF 2013: Don Jon (2013)
It’s about as close to the perverse truth as any romantic-comedy has come close to depicting. It delivers the goods on its premise and is unique enough to distance itself from the genre. There is no denying the chemistry between its two wonderful, handsome leads and the laughs are consistent and real. Yet, one can’t help but feel that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut “Don Jon” is missing that certain climactic element. Essentially, there is nothing utterly wrong with the film itself. The fault lies in its inability to provoke any kind of meaningful reaction or reward the viewer for tagging along in the journey. Granted, the plots skeletal structure is anything but common and Levitt isn’t afraid to show a little skin, so to speak. However, the point in which the viewer joins the protagonist never diverts or scatters, resulting in a linear, anti-climactic, albeit impressive debut for Levitt.
Jon Martello (Levitt) is a present day Don Juan who objectifies everything in his life, specifically women. His friends call him Don Jon because he is consistently able to pull “10s” every week. Soon, Jon’s addiction to internet pornography renders his sex life less than fulfilling and eventually his relationships begin to falter because of it. On his journey to discover a more satisfying love life, Jon falls for Barbara (Johansson), a beautiful woman who is obsessed with control.
Much like Joss Whedon did to the horror genre with “The Cabin in the Woods,” Levitt has disassembled, dissected, and rebuilt the conventional stereotypes and outlook of the romantic comedy. However, when blatantly poking fun at countless years of tradition and canon, the revolt better be a game changer. And for the most part, Levitt has this transformation pointed in the right direction. His outing is a raunchy, veracious, satirical romp…of course not to the same height, success, or effectiveness as Whedon and Goddard’s comedic fright-fest. However, with “Don Jon,” Levitt has genuinely created something brash, original, and straightforward. It definitely bursts with the usual charisma and wit that typically defines films of this genre and manages to lure the viewer in with likeable, terrifically performed, over-the-top characters.
Although for the majority of its runtime, “Don Jon” is severely superficial. This reinvented concoction does offer more insight, intelligence, and endearing qualities than the majority of the genre’s entries. “Don Jon” is merely a half-realized revelation for the rom-com genre and is heavily directed at the male populous. It’s sure to not sit as well with the female market, but for those who can handle the harsh fact of differing motivations in opposite-gender relationships. It’ll conjure up some big body-aching laughs and a veritable gaze into the logical and emotional differences that continuously baffle our co-existing genders. Compared to its counterparts, “Don Jon” is a breath of fresh, sexually charged air into a genre that would rather play pretend than focus on truth-telling and authentic, situational humour.
It’s rather comical, yet seriously obscure that I’m having this much difficulty writing up this review. As I previously stated, there isn’t anything actually wrong with the film. It’s funny, different, and Levitt, again for the most part, has done everything with his usual flair and charm. I just feel that with “Don Jon,” Levitt errs on the side of caution. As if he has intentionally pushed the envelope, but got cold feet halfway to his destination. You’ll find yourself watching the film and feel a bit naughty and excited by this new, uncharted cinematic territory. And then, when you’ve finally reached the end, flustered and gleeful, the slow realization that you weren’t overly wowed begins to take over. However, all this being said, “Don Jon” truly is an impassioned, touching, respectable debut for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. So long as he keeps chugging along this road of ingenuity and continues to carve out his own way. Levitt will have a long, prosperous career behind the camera.
The one thing you can rely on when heading into the theatre to experience “Don Jon” is the consistent cleverness and turbulent coexistence of all the characters. Which are incredibly and ably performed by the entire cast, which features Scarlett Johansson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza.
Marred in heavy makeup and a thick New Jersey accent, Scarlett Johansson is as striking as ever, even though she maybe a tad incoherent. Nonetheless, in a role that significantly depends on superficiality and surface pleasures. It’s her ability to transform and power through the external distractions in order to reach internal importance that is truly remarkable. Tony Danza is down-right hilarious in his supporting role. Hopefully this will lead to his emergence from the shadows and launch him back into the mainstream. Moore is just phenomenal in her supporting role, she hasn’t been this effective and stunning in a long while. As for Levitt, he’s as effective and suave as ever, but we shouldn’t have expected anything less. Levitt does a phenomenal job while pulling double duty and really adapted both physically and mentally, not only to play and capture the role, but create it. Although I have to admit, Levitt’s portrayal here is quite the oddity when you associate him with the heartbroken romantic from “500 Days of Summer,” quite the contrast.
It might dwell a little to close to safety, but its excess of honesty and hilarity is enough for “Don Jon” to overcome its faults. It is a respectable inception for director/writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Don Jon: 7.5 out of 10.