Movie Review ~ Don Jon

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson, Glenne Headly

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Rated: R

Running Length: 90 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (4.5/10)

Review: The early promise of Don Jon came in the form of a confident trailer for the directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Premium Rush, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises) but the good will sadly stops there.  Though I can say that the movie is directed with a certain flair and knowledge of what makes a modern film tick, the overall substance is lacking and the lasting effect is a close-but-no-cigar exercise of great sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Certainly on paper the film looked intriguing.  Gordon-Levitt directs his own script about a New Jersey ladies man with a future that’s not really going places but who is still happy in the circle of routine he’s settled into.  Aside from his family, his car, his workout, and his weekly Sunday confessional, the one thing that our leading man can’t get enough of is porn.  Porn in the morning, porn in the evening, porn at suppertime.  His constant reliance on being aroused by the taboo medium has led to a loss of true intimacy in his relationships because he feels like nothing will ever be as good as what he watches on his computer screen.

An interesting concept to be sure and a valid discussion point for the age of technology we live in when connection is just a mouse click away.  The problem I have with Don Jon is it never really says anything more than that.  Ok, so maybe by following Jon through his less than perfect relationship with no-nonsense gum smacking  beauty Barbara (Scarlett Johansson, Marvel’s The Avengers, Hitchcock) helps him understand some greater lessons about himself but it isn’t that pleasant of a journey for the audience to go along with.

From the opening credits the movie is unleashed on our senses at Level 10 and rarely does it turn the dial down.  Perhaps it was just the sound system at the theater where I saw the movie but the soundtrack and visuals had an overwhelming effect…so much so that I felt like covering my ears at times.  Gordon-Levitt captures the high velocity nightlife of the Jersey town where the action takes place and his routine is captured nicely (ala All That Jazz) with a repetitive style that’s edited with slick verve.

So Gordon-Levitt makes for a nice director and a less than realized screenwriter but what of his acting?  Though he’s takes on a De Niro-esque squint and wears white tank tops in a way that would make Channing Tatum jealous, there’s a glimmer of vulnerability underneath it all that helps his character not stray too far from our good graces.  Johansson’s role is considerably more shrewish than you’d think but she balances the good/bad sides nicely.  Tony Danza and Glenne Headly cut the image of typical Jersey parents…but Gordon-Levitt has scripted them to be shouting the majority of their lines and they become aggravating.  Brie Larson (The Spectacular Now) has but a few sentences as Gordon-Levitt’s tuned out sister but when she speaks it’s worth the wait.

Then we have Julianne Moore (2013’s Carrie) as a woman Jon meets in night school.  This is a puzzling character, not because Moore doesn’t shine in it because she’s the best thing in the whole movie, but that it’s created solely to provide an out for Jon that’s more convenient than true.  It’s a smaller role for Moore but it isn’t hard to see what drew her to the damaged goods mystery woman.

Interesting only in brief passages, overall this was a let-down in my book.  It’s one of the rare movies that I like less the more I think about it…mostly because it’s pretty average but also because with the talent involved I know it could have been better.

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