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. (IMDB)
Writer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Run time/Rating: 90 Minutes/ R
Popcorn Score: Medium Popcorn
My desire to like “Don Jon” ultimately couldn’t quite overtake the impression the movie actually made on me, but it did help to keep things close.
Written and directed by one of my favorites Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he plays the overly stereotypical Guido from New Jersey, Jon. He hits the club with his boys, he keeps his house clean, he keeps his muscles tight, and he loves his family and his church. A voice over provides these essential character details about our leading man in the first few minutes. The last thing that he loves in that list, but certainly not the least is Porn.
Once titled “Don Jon’s Addiction” which carried an NC-17 rating, I imagine focused a little bit more on the dark side of what a porn addition could do to a person. I think this is where the movie wanted to go, a branch off of Steve McQueen’s “Shame”, with porn. We learn Jon’s ritual of watching porn and get hints of how it makes him feel. Every time Jon opens his MacBook we hear the chime of the system starting, I got the impression that this sound was meant to symbolize the feeling a junkie gets when they hear the sound of a flick of the their lighter or the depression an alcoholic would get while twisting open another bottle of whiskey. After the studio makeover, the film is left with only glimpses of this dark place that watching porn brings Jon but ultimately never connects on this level the way “Shame” did.
I don’t want to compare Don Jon’s objective to just being another Shame, because it’s obvious JGL had different goals, and those do come through. His movie is much funnier, has much better flow and is lighter all around (it has to be right? It’s about porn). The boys and him hit the club scene every weekend and gawk at the girls as they rate them on the 1 to “Dime” scale. Jon is called the Don because he can take a girl home every night and he only goes home with 7’s or higher.
One night in the club he comes across the Dime of his dreams, Scarlett Johansson. She is not like all the other girls and plays harder to get. The Don decides that she is worth some effort so he tries to change his ways to win her over. It takes a little time but after swearing off porn, not hitting the club with his boys so often, and even signing up for some night classes to forward his career, he gets the girl. The problem is he soon realizes that this girl he put on the pedestal is changing everything he likes about himself.
Enter Julianne Moore, a woman who Jon meets in his night classes with personal issues of her own, but enough life experience to be some sort of a counseling cougar for the young meathead.
Ninety minutes after the movie starts it ends seemingly in the middle of what could have been an entirely new story. There are parts within that time frame that were really enjoyable, the cut scenes of Jon yelling from his car towards other drivers on the road I imagine is spot on for Jersey streets. Also, the family scenes which feature Tony Danza as the foul mouthed father (who didn’t care to hide his attraction to his son’s new catch) were all pretty enjoyable.
All in all, my first thought about this movie is that if it hadn’t been written by an established name like JGL it probably never would have been made at all. To his credit, putting together a whole screenplay and then directing it isn’t an easy thing to do, even for someone with industry knowledge. But I believe there are 1000’s of better scripts out there written by unknowns sitting on hard drives or in piles on studio’s shelves that are probably better than Don Jon. There are also, on the other hand, many movies much worse being produced all the time. It is a nice indie feature that is worth catching when you get around to it but unfortunately not all that it could have been and at one point might have been.