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Film Review: 'Don Jon'

Janet Lee |
September 25, 2013 | 12:50 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Scarlett Johansson as Barbara and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jon in "Don Jon" (Voltage Pictures).
Scarlett Johansson as Barbara and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jon in "Don Jon" (Voltage Pictures).
We know Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the sweet, charismatic, and dapper fellow on the big screen. From “30 Rock” to “(500) Days of Summer”, he’s the guy who enraptures us with his amicable presence.

In his film “Don Jon,” however, he transforms into a thuggish and womanizing New Jersey porn addict. He looks like a cast member from “Jersey Shore” to say the least and doesn’t hesitate in using every possible stereotype and cliché formula.

Taking on triple duty as director, writer, and actor for the first time, Levitt presents the ambitious themes of sex and porn addiction that fall short in the end. 

Gordon-Levitt plays Jon, whose friends call him Don Jon due to his ability to pick up “tens” at nightclubs and bring them home. But sex proves to be less satisfying than pornography to Jon. Troubled by his unsatisfying sex life, Jon jumps on the relationship wagon, hoping that he’ll be able to achieve his fantasies when involved in something meaningful.

He quickly pursues the attractive Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) who, in Jon’s words is a “perfect ten.” Her princess demeanor gives him a rather erroneous lesson on being a “real man” in a relationship. The two are amusing to watch, seeing that they are both very different people yet so similar at the same time. It’s inevitable that tensions arise.

READ MORE: Film Review: 'Prisoners'

The beginning of the film is humorously shameless, as Jon explicitly expresses his addiction to porn. He presents us with clips of what he watches, sharing personal moments of masturbating and yes, throwing tissues in the trashcan after. The line between fantasy and reality is blurred for Jon and he does not realize it. The rowdy and dramatic music in the background that narrates his life illustrates his naivety with women and sex. 

Gordon-Levitt implements creative visuals that allow us to come close to his character. But he overplays and repeats the sequence of Jon’s weekly routine of hitting the nightclub, having sex, watching porn, confessing his promiscuous actions at church, eating dinner with his family, and completing his penance while lifting weights at the gym. Although the irony in all of this is darkly comical, the sequence is repeated excessively throughout the film without illustrating any progression in Jon. It disappointingly reaches a point of redundancy. 

The film embodies cliché and predictable characters. Levitt overplays the aggressive male stereotype in Jon and his father, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza). And it doesn’t help that they’re Italian either. Barbara, who has a “Titanic” poster on her wall, is the typical girly girl who always gets her way. Jon’s relationship with Barbara is very predictable, yet Levitt elongates their story for most of the entirety of the film. 

Although Gordon-Levitt displays talent at cleverly weaving in irony and dark humor and possesses a well-performing cast, he infuses his film with redundancies and stereotypical characters that don’t provide any depth. He’s an admired figure in Hollywood, so we can only hope that his next projects will illustrate progression and originality. But for now, we’ll give him a pat on the back for a nice try. 

Watch the trailer for "Don Jon" below.

Reach Staff Reporter Janet Lee here. Follow her on Twitter



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