Thursday, December 26, 2013

Don Jon

By Sati. Thursday, December 26, 2013 , , , , , , ,
I like Joseph Godon-Levitt. I wouldn't go as far as to call myself a fan of his, but he is a talented guy and he seems to be a likable, cool person. He has given us a lot of good performances in many great films - just recently in  Looper, The Dark Knight Rises and 50/50. And now he is trying his efforts in a new endeavor - writing and directing.

Did his efforts pay off? Short answer - yes. Don Jon is an entertaining, lively film with many amusing and clever moments. It's fairly evident it's Levitt's first try at feature film making but it's a good movie. It could have been much better had the script had a bit more substance to it, but it's definitely worth seeing if what you are looking for is light fun. And some boobs.
Don Jon is one of those many romantic comedies that tries to wrap itself in realities of our cynical world and say something insightful about it.. Jon is a guy who has a job - never mind what it is, as in most of those movies it doesn't matter - he has money, his own apartment he likes to clean obsessively. He has a family he loves and attends church with every Sunday. He has his buddies he hangs out with and since he is a good looking guy, it's not that hard for him to get chicks. In fact, it's very, very easy.

Enter Barbara Sugarman (a dynamite Scarlett Johansson). Barbara is too smart for this game. She doesn't want sex, she wants a boyfriend. She wants the perfect romance, like the ones she saw in countless romantic films she loves to watch. Barbara is not looking for reality - she wants everything, every moment to be so perfect and so exquisite it could be a movie on its own.
Joe wants the opposite of that, he just doesn't know it yet. Barbara is stuck in her bubble of romantic comedy fantasy - Joe is stuck in his unhealthy routine. He likes regular sex. But he likes something more - masturbating while watching porn. Hand holding and embraces are Barbara's fantasy. Cum shots and getting blow jobs are the fantasy that Joe has.

Where Don Jon gets in trouble is when Levitt doesn't seem to know what exactly he wants to do with this story. Parody? Or insightful look at the life when reality meets fantasy and addiction becomes a big problem? The funniest the film is when it leans to the first one. The film's most hilarious moment involves Barbara walking in on Jon as he gets off to a porn flick. The argument that follows is one of the year's funniest scenes.
However midway, Levitt introduces the character of Esther (Julianne Moore). We first meet Esther as she is weeping in front of the school both of them are taking courses at. Joe wants to have nothing to do with an older woman, who is crying in front of the building. Later Esther comes over to apologize and she notices Joe was watching porn on his phone. Plot twist - instead of being quiet about it Esther asks 'I'm sorry were you just watching two people fucking?"

It's those quirky and unexpected moments where the movie works best and it works well a lot. Unfortunately, the progression of Esther story hits an unrealistic turn near the end. It's just a bit too much for me to buy - a guy who bangs girls looking like models being so interested in older woman that he dates her? Had they became friends after one instance of love making I thought the film could end on more realistic note and work better.
After disastrous turn in Carrie, Moore provides sweet and understanding performance here. Unfortunately, I felt she was a bit too old for Levitt. It felt like she should be mother figure to him, especially after we find out she had a son and she does all does motherly things for Joe, like drawing him a bath. When they have sex it just felt a bit awkward, even disturbing. I know it's sounds terrible to write there is something off about older women and younger guy - there's not. But the film painted Esther and Joe more like mother/son and mentor/apprentice than possible lovers. The intimate scene between them feels jarring because of that.

It's Esther that makes Joe realize he has a problem with compulsive porn watching. There is not much insight to his whole issue and he changes his ways pretty easily, so don't count on a deep movie about addiction here. Don Jon is at his best when it doesn't kid himself - it's a clever comedy, no more, no less.
The film also provides impressive supporting roles from the members of Joe's family. Glenne Headly - who was the cute pediatrician on ER 20 years ago is charming and funny as Joe's protective and loving mother. Brie Larson plays interesting part of Joe's sister - she is constantly on her phone, she appears detached from the world but in the end she is the one that makes Joe see who Barbara really was. I thought it was very clever how Larson had only one scene in which she spoke but I wish the scene went on a bit longer than that.

But the best part of the family is definitely Tony Danza as Joe's father. Danza was absolutely hilarious and he had effortless chemistry with everyone in the scenes with him. The family dinner scenes are some of the funniest and liveliest moments of the whole film and they reminded me a little of the quirky and loving family moments from Silver Linings Playbook.

I admired Levitt's attention to detail - clever use of movie clips, ads and slogans as well as carefully planned nuances - like Barbara's hilariously infantile room. But it's still pretty clear Levitt has a lot to learn - the repetition gag works first several times, then it becomes tired. One can easily notice that first time director doesn't really know how long to keep focus on characters, events and situations.

Still, it's a fairly promising first feature and it's definitely worth seeing - if you are looking for funny comedy with good performances, Don Jon won't disappoint you. Especially if you are a fan of Scarlett Johansson - the scene where she uses her sexuality to control Jon and moans in the hallway is bound to make you very happy. And crazy horny, I imagine.
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28 comments:

  1. I kind of figured Don Jon would take a turn like this, which is why I didn't hurry to theaters to see it. I'll catch it when it hits Netflix, and because I like JGL's work, but your post reassures me that I didn't the next big thing.

    Additionally, I know this is a typo, but my immature mind is thinking: NO PUN INTENDED! harhar

    "Parody? Or insightful look at the life when reality meats fantasy and addiction becomes a big problem?"

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    1. Damn, this is what happens when I write the review weeks ago and the spellcheck doesn't detect something :)

      It's worth seeing for Johansson's work, she is really excellent.

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  2. Great review, I've been hearing very divided reports about this film.

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    1. It's pretty entertaining, definitely worth checking out.

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  3. Great review! I liked Don Jon, obviously I'm a huge fan of JGL, so I can't wait to see what he does next. The more I think about it, the more I love Johansson's accent in this film. That in itself was hysterical. I love that scene you mention after she catches him watching porn. "They give awards for movies!" "They give awards for pornos, too."

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    1. Thanks! Oh her accent was great, she really nailed it. That was such a funny scene, I loved how outraged she was :)

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  4. I liked this film. It was pretty funny while I also thought it took some shots on the ideas of what men and women want in a relationship. Especially since the Barbara character is such a bitch whose idea of romance is pretty damn dumb. She also criticizes Don for cleaning his apartment by himself because he likes to do it himself. What the hell is that? I thought a woman would be relieved to know that a guy likes to clean his own pad. I like cleaning my house. It gives me something to do.

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    1. That scene in the store was so clever - it perfectly illustrated how delusional Barbara was, I mean she didn't even want to talk about things that she didn't consider romantic or sexy.

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  5. Good review Sati. It was a solid movie, however, it wasn't great. But nonetheless, it still has me hopeful in what JGL can do in the near future as a writer and director. Let's hope it's something that's even more interesting than this.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, I hope he will only continue to grow and get better.

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  6. Hahaha i had such a good time watching this! I think it's a fun movie and a solid debut. Not a great film, but it's enjoyable enough. I agree with what you said about the first half of the movie. So much hilarity ensued! especially the humping in the hallway part XD

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  7. Great review. It's a good debut for Joseph Gordon Levitt, it certainly was entertaining. Julianne Moore was great here, but I think her character chemistry with Jon would have worked better if she was less motherly, and more of the older woman love interest. I also liked Brie Larson's speaking scene; that turned out to be one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah the whole Esther arc was really confusing. It's like Levitt couldn't decide what kind of figure for Joe she is supposed to be.

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  8. I watched it half–way through last night but got really bored with it, honestly. I did admire some things, but the characters annoyed me so much – I had no symphaty for any of them. Plus I'd say Moore is definitely too old for him and their dynamic just… it doesn't work. I agree with what you said – it would've worked much better if they'd just kept it as a friendship. I'm not 100% sure I even want to finish it. Anyhow, I really enjoyed your review (and it was the push that got me to watch the film), so thanks for sharing!

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    1. I think it's worth finishing the film, I saw it in cinema so I had no option to turn it off, but I can see how the repetition thing can get annoying.

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  9. You must've spent some time to retouch the pictures, if only I have more time to do that B) Don Jon is an entertaining movie and very confident debut. But I was disappointed with the easy Hollywood ending. It could be more real than that. But shows a lot of promise for JGL.

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    1. It's not the question of time but ability, it takes some tempering and tweaking to do that not to mention each picture requires different effects at times.

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  10. I agree with you on some of the points but the thing with fangirling is looking past those points. I do think the second half of the movie was a bit weaker than the first but I can't help to love the movie overall, so fun and entertaining in the beginning. What I think is that Joe wanted to show too much with his first movie, almost as if he needed to show the fun side as well as the deep side all in once and it somehow didn't really fit together liek a puzzle. As separate stories the first half and the second half work well for me, though yes, the second one needed a bit more character development but I mean. I love Joe and I'm not sorry.

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    1. I liked the film, I was impressed with the cast Levitt assembled and he appears to be skilled in writing/directing areas, hopefully he will only get better with his feature films.

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  11. Great review Sati. I just watched this one myself recently. I think I liked it a little more than yourself. I know a lot if people had issues with the script but I thought it flowed quite nicely and all the characters were entirely believable. A very promising debut from JGL

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    1. Thank you! I'm very interested to see what JGL will do next.

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  12. Nice review, personally though I thought there were a lot of repetitive moments and the story never really managed to get me involvded. Happy to see you got more out of it.

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    1. Yeah there was a lot of repetition in the film that was kinda tiring after a while.

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  13. I agree on Gordon-Levitt's handling of the material. It seemed like he couldn't quite decide where to take the film, which made it feel clumsy. Still, I enjoyed it, and laughed several times.

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    1. Same here, I just wish he had more of a clue about what he wanted to do here.

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  14. Excellent review, Sati. I just watched this yesterday and I agree with you 100%. This was a fun little film, but it kind of lost its way when Julianne Moore entered the story. I'm glad you pointed out Danza's performance -- his back-and-forth with JGL was hilarious.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, Moore story arc was kinda a mess. Danza was awesome!

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