Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! - Don Jon

By Freda Cooper 12.11.2013 2

Don Jon (UK Rating: 18)

The sight of journalists queuing for an advance screening of a film is something of a rarity - but queue they did at last month's London Film Festival.  It wasn't for one of the big films like Captain Phillips or Inside Llewyn Davis either. The movie that made them stand obediently in line was the directorial debut from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon. Lights, Camera, Action! returns - complete with Freda Cooper now at the helm - ready to deliver the final verdict.
 
Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt) is known to his friends as The Don, not so much because of his Italian heritage but because of his ability to pull any girl he wants.  However, they are all for one night only, as they can never match the pleasure he gets from watching online porn.  His first proper girlfriend, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), is an old fashioned romantic, who makes him wait. As their relationship develops, his need for porn seems to diminish - for a while, at least.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! - Don Jon


Gordon-Levitt doesn't do things by halves. Not only does he direct Don Jon, but he also wrote the screenplay and he's chosen to play the lead as well. He also pulls it all together to make a film that's both funny and unexpectedly sweet at its core.

The association with porn immediately conjures up the possibility of something sleazy and, while the film is peppered with images of his fantasy - online women - it avoids being too explicit. After all, one's imagination often creates the best visuals, right? Nor is it overtly about the exploitation of women, either by the porn industry or men. What it does is expose the emptiness of the online sexual experience. Ultimately, Don Jon is a romantic comedy about human attraction, viewed from a slightly skewed angle.

Johansson and Gordon-Levitt's characters make an extremely appealing couple and their attraction is clear right from the outset. For a while, his devotion to her replaces his need for porn but, as the relationship develops, his habit returns. It's his near-silent sister, Angela (Glenne Headley), who uses her three lines of dialogue in the film to nail the issue when the couple break up. Barbara didn't really love Jon: she was simply a spoilt princess who wanted somebody to continue treating her that way.  In other words, the affair was as one-sided as Jon's online habit.


 

There is real on-screen chemistry between Johansson and Gordon-Levitt. They sparkle in each other's company, feed off each other, and make a convincing partnership. The other woman in Jon's life, Esther, is played by Julianne Moore. They meet at an evening class and, while he's initially not keen on her, that gradually changes over time. Moore is a fine actress and she does her best with the part but can't avoid the fact that she's miscast in the role. It's hard to believe in her relationship with Jon, and this rubs off onto the latter part of the film when watching them become closer.

As Jon's father, Tony Danza is a toned-down Raging Bull; foul-mouthed, hot tempered, constantly bickering with his son and wearing his vest to eat at the table. He's also highly entertaining, as is Glenne Headley as the almost silent sister, who spends all her time super-glued to her mobile phone sending messages - even at the dinner table or at mass.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! - Don Jon


As director and screenwriter, Gordon-Levitt has an eye for crisp editing that gives the film plenty of pace and an ear for quick-fire dialogue, especially among Jon and his friends.  He also makes great use of Jon's routines, away from his laptop. Some stay the same during the course of the film and others change, demonstrating changes in Jon himself. They are also a neat and effective way of linking the film together.

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Confident, funny and unexpectedly insightful, Don Jon is a promising first outing for Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a director/screenwriter. Given his background in action and Sci-Fi, it's not what most would expect from him, which means that when his next project comes along, it should be even more interesting.

Don Jon is released in cinemas around the UK on Friday, 15th November.

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Comments

I always find it amusing when there's a movie in which the lead male has to make out and have (pretend) sex with the very attractive female lead - and the movie is directed by that male lead.

Male Lead/Director: "..and cut. Let's take it again from the top"
Female Lead: "But we've done this make out scene five times already. We must have enough takes."
Male Lead/Director: "Um...uh...I don't think so yet. Just a couple more times"


I don't know if there's actually scenes like that in this movie since I haven't seen it yet or read the above review (to avoid spoilers), but it's always what I think of (like with Zack Braff and Garden State)

I saw it a couple weeks ago, it's already out here in Holland. Didn't know much about it, but it turned out to be really good. Solid film. Joseph Guido-Levitt.

~Getting on C3's massive tits since 2K5.~

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