Film Review: Don Jon

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Don Jon flips the gender roles in the romantic comedy as Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and acts his way to one of the best comedies of the year.

Following the romantic conquests of Jon, a walking Jersey stereotype, we see how he handles his girls, his boys, his car, his pad, his family, his church, his porn and what he will go through to please the “most beautiful thing” he has ever seen. The film is being sold on the porn angle, and there is plenty of it, but this is one of the sweeter romantic comedies I have ever seen if you can get past the dirty bits.

Gordon-Levitt makes his debut as both a writer and a director with Don Jon and while I have always enjoyed his acting I think I might enjoy him behind the camera more. The film is so sharp and full of momentum that it never misses a beat as it plows forward. Gordon-Levitt introduces us to Jon’s world with ease, excitement and a fantastic sense of humor that is so sure in its film making you would never think this is his first feature. The music is great, the editing is tight and he has a sense of style that feels original and not an imitation of the directors he’s worked with.

Gordon-Levitt also assembles one hell of a cast to bring his story to life, starting first and foremost with the fantastic Scarlett Johansson. Johansson goes full Jersey for this thing and she is hilarious as the “hard to get” girl. The two seem perfect for each other, but as the film slowly reveals itself you see that Johansson has been subtly, to me at least, laying the groundwork for her character to be complicit in the accusations made against her. Neither Johansson’s Barbara nor Gordon-Levitt’s Jon are perfect and he does a great job of pitting their flawed ideals of love against one another. Basically telling every young person you don’t know what love is until you deal with some shit is a hard sell in a romantic comedy, but Gordon-Levitt is right, and he sends this message without ridiculing those that have the flawed ideas about love that Jon and Barbara have. It’s almost like he wants to take viewer’s hands and lead them towards the right path of happiness and that is where the underlying sweetness of this film is always popping out.

Julianne Moore is one of the supporting players in the cast and her talents help Gordon-Levitt navigate a very tricky 90 degree turn he takes late in the film. I always like Moore and she is very funny here, but she is also able to turn on the dramatic dime needed for a sneakily complex part. Tony Danza and Glenne Headly are great as Jon’s parents and they do a great job of keeping a purposefully repetitive device fresh every time we come back to them. Brie Larson also kills her only moment of the film even though she is in well over half of it.

Gordon-Levitt also deserves credit for his work in front of the camera as well, as he fully embodies the character both physically and vocally. If he wasn’t Joseph Gordon-Levitt I would never have known he wasn’t some dude fresh off of the Jersey Shore. One of the film’s few weaknesses is that aforementioned turn it takes late in the game, and Gordon-Levitt is able to sell it, but I think the arc is rushed quite a bit; especially for how messed up Jon is compared to where we leave him in the end.

Don Jon made me laugh a lot and Gordon-Levitt has quickly established himself as a talent to watch both in front of and behind the camera. Right behind some of the year’s best comedies like In A World, The World’s End and This is the End (a lot of symmetry there), Don Jon is a film that can be enjoyed by both sexes and might even force you to look at the way you ingest media and apply it to the way you live your life. Regardless of the film’s message it is a fantastic debut from its director, writer, star and anyone that is on team JGL out there should check Don Jon out.

Don Jon is an A-

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