08 October 2013

Movie Review: Don Jon by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Title: Don Jon
Director(s): Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Release Date (USA): September 27, 2013
Rating: R
"There's only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.“ -Don Jon
Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a good ol' Jersey boy. He loves his family, goes to church every Sunday and regularly hangs with his friends. He's handsome, has a sweet ride and takes pride in his pad. Aptly named the "Don" due to his smooth moves with the ladies, Jon has got it going on. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a determined, beautiful, good ol' fashioned girl. She's a "Dime." Craving the romance found only in the movies, Barbara seeks a Prince Charming to call her own. Instead, she finds Jon. Things are seemingly perfect between the Don and the Dime, that is, until his little porn habit threatens to tear them apart. It's a good ol' fashioned guido/guidette love story.

Indie sensation, JGL had a lot to prove when he set out to make his writing/directorial debut. Folks, let me tell you right now, he did it. Don Jon is a theatrical masterpiece. I say masterpiece because it manages to be a dramedy that both men and women can enjoy, as well as a smart cultural commentary on the misrepresentations of the sexes. Don Jon also explores the impossible expectations that set the foundation for many romantic relationships and it does so in both a thought-provoking and funny way. It's a breath of fresh air.

Just as JGL's character is trying to find himself, you can see where he struggles to find his directorial voice. Don Jon feels too meticulous and familiar at the start, a little like a Darren Aronofsky film, but eventually he settles into a comfortable rhythm, one that feels uniquely his. He's got a great narrative voice, his timing is impeccable and, most important, there's actual depth underneath all the tongue-and-cheek humour. JGL wisely balances the bawdier material with a touch bold honesty. Don Jon does the impossible by turning the notion of GTL into a work of art, and if JGL can start off with this much of a bang, I think he's got a very promising career ahead of him.

On the surface, Jon is your stereotypical Jersey Shore asshole. But underneath that macho exterior lies a man who needs to lose himself in something. And that something just so happens to be porn. On the surface, Barbara seems like his perfect girl. But Jon quickly learns that what you see is not always what you get. JGL is charming and charismatic as the leading stud, Don Jon. He actually makes a man-whore likeable. Who knew?! But then again, are you really surprised?

I'm sorry, I was distracted. What were we talking about again?
That just speaks to his raw talent as an actor. While I usually find Scar-Jo to be wooden, she is both a bombshell and willful bitch here. There's a surprising subtlety to her performance that I haven't seen from her before. And behind strong leads there's a solid secondary cast. Tony Danza and Glenne Headly are PERFECT hamming it up as Jon's parents. I have to say, Tony Danza absolutely kills it! And though Brie Larson's part is small, as Jon's tech-absorbed sister, her character is what perpetuates such a dramatic shift in the film. I thought the casting was pretty spot on sans Julianne Moore's role. It's not that her character wasn't believable, because it was --- she's a no frills, observational truth-seeker. Everything that character needed to be. It was just her as that character that I wasn't quite buying.

But as a whole, I thought the film was nearly perfect. There is more than meets the eye with Don Jon, which is ironic because that notion is pretty much the core of the entire movie. You watch it to be entertained but walk away with something meaningful to talk about. Don Jon is about letting people in so that they can see the deepest parts of you. It's about the ability to really let yourself go, to know what it feels like to be free. I don't know if I've ever seen a movie that explores the intricacies of love, friendship and sex with as much finesse as Don Jon does. And while it IS a love story, it's also very much a movie about self-discovery. Let's just say, I haven't felt that emotionally satisfied walking out of a theatre in a very long time.

Summary Prognosis
Don Jon is a solid debut by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He's written a touching movie about love and sex, men and women. It's a movie that teaches us how to recognize when we've become victims of false fantasies and shows us the meaning of true intimacy. Don Jon truly is a dime with a smart soul and heart of gold.

Rating: ★★★★½

Watch It: This movie is currently out in theatres
Discuss It: IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
View the Trailer:


  1. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt but on the other hand I'm not a huge fan of the Jersey Shore asshole thing. But this movie does sound good and the trailer is pretty funny. I will watch this one thanks to your review but I will wait for it on DVD.

    1. That's the thing about this movie though.. on the surface, what you see is a movie about these Jersey Shore assholes, but the deeper you go, the more substance there is. I was really impressed and I definitely recommend it, especially if you're a JGL fan!

  2. Ugh. I want to lick his abs.

    I keep almost seeing this and then going to something else instead, so I have a feeling it will end up being one of those I watch twelve times when it airs on HBO.

    Kate @ The Midnight Garden

    1. OMG, he is TASTY! I definitely recommend seeing it... and then seeing it again. And again. And again.

  3. I hadn't heard of this until now but you have totally convinced me that it's a film I need to see. It's great that JGL has branched out into writing/directing, good on him!

    1. He really is brilliant and for a first-timer, it was SO well done. I really think you'll enjoy this!

  4. I had no idea Joseph Gordon-Levitt directed this! And dayum! He's looking good.
    I'll have to check this one out sometime.

    1. He's such a cutie and I HIGHLY recommend this movie to all JGL fans out there.


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