Don Jon (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/11/2013

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's writing and directing debut is a superbly acted and sporadically amusing character study, but it's let down by an overly repetitive script, painfully underwritten female characters and a lack of chemistry between Gordon-Levitt, Johansson and Moore.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (making his writer/director debut), Don Jon is set in present-day New Jersey (or should that be Noo Joisey?) and stars JGL as six-pack-packing, porn-obsessed lunk Jon, whose prowess with the laydeez has earned him the nickname Don Jon from his two envious best buddies Bobby and Danny (Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke). When Jon meets “perfect dime” Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) in a nightclub, he thinks he might actually be ready to settle down, but their relationship breaks down irretrievably after she discovers his porn addiction.

Realising that he actually prefers porn to real-life sex, Jon experiences the New Jersey lunk-head equivalent of a depression, confiding only in his parish priest during confession. However, things begin to turn around for Jon after he befriends fellow night school student Esther (Julianne Moore), an emotionally damaged older woman who turns out to have an interest in Scandinavian erotica.

The Good
Joseph Gordon-Levitt casts himself against type as Jon, which should serve as something of a warning to fans expecting his usual screen persona; the problem is that while it's a strong comic performance, it frequently feels too close to caricature. He's also not particularly likeable, so it's difficult to sympathise with him when things start going wrong.

That said, the supporting cast are a lot of fun, particularly Glenne Headly as Jon's mum and Tony Danza, who steals the entire film with a hilarious turn as Jon's dad (his combination of fatherly pride and barely-concealed lust when Jon brings Barbara home is priceless). On top of that, Gordon-Levitt's direction is snappy and engaging throughout, thanks to a variety of flashy editing techniques and directorial gimmicks.

The Bad
Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore both do their best but their characters are painfully underwritten and aren't afforded any depth beyond Gorgeous Ball-Breaker and Motherly Saint respectively, with the result being that neither character seems real, something that is heightened by a lack of chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and both his leading ladies. On top of that, there's way too much pointless repetition in the film and, family scenes aside, the jokes aren't actually all that funny (even the film-within-a-film joke, featuring a pair of celebrity cameos, has been done better elsewhere recently), while it's also never entirely clear whether we're supposed to be laughing with Jon or at him.

Worth seeing?
Despite some assured direction and strong comic performances, Don Jon is ultimately something of a disappointment thanks to its underwritten female characters and a script that fails to either engage or convince on an emotional level.

Film Trailer

Don Jon (18)
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Content updated: 22/03/2019 00:11

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