As I was watching Don Jon I remembered when Joseph Gordon Levitt announced his directorial debut, so it was a nice to see it unfold before my eyes. Don Jon is about a man addicted to pornography and how he learns the difference between love and sex. He meets two women, Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson and an older woman Esther, played by Julianne Moore. The film made me think of Shame, the 2011 drama about a sex addict played by Michael Fassbender, a very powerful film. Don Jon feels like a lighter take on the subject, also because Jon’s problem isn’t as big as Fassbender’s character’s.
A lot of real porn appears in the film. I loved how they edited the scenes when Jon was thinking of porn when talking to people or doing other things. It was a flashy film, definitely not for those suffering from epilepsy. I also loved the intro, for the same reasons related to editing. What I didn’t like was how shaky the camera was. It was very distracting and annoying.
There were a lot of shots of Jon’s and the two women’s faces like he was getting inside their heads. I also liked how he used music and enjoyed the cameos from Anne Hathaway, Channing Tatum and the poster with John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, which was very funny.
Talking about the characters. I would like to know the reason why he chose to make his character Italian American. I felt like he used this stereotype of buff womanizers who argue a lot for no reason. Just to be clear, I don’t want to offense anyone in any way, it’s just a type of character I’ve seen in other films and I’m simply stating how they are portrayed. I don’t find this type of characters funny at all and didn’t understand its use in the film. The same thing about Scarlett Johansson’s character. She was portrayed as this brash woman, with a weird New Yawk accent (or at least sounded like one), who is fascinated by romantic comedies. Both actors changed their way of speaking for the role. Didn’t think it brought something new to the role. I don’t know why he chose to make Jon and Barbara like this. Still, the performances were very good.
Joseph Gordon Levitt looked very different from his other films and it’s probably the only more manly role he had, besides Looper, so far. I enjoyed seeing him experiment with this role. The same thing for Scarlett Johansson. I’ve never seen her play such a character before. She was never like this in the Woody Allen films. Still, she handled the role very well. Some women really are like her character.
Julianne Moore was great as always. I think she is one of the most underrated actresses in recent years. I wish people would just give her that Oscar she deserves so much. Here she had a smaller role, as Esther, a woman Jon meets at his night classes. Another great role for Moore.
The actors playing the parents, Tony Danza and Glenne Headly were full of life as Don’s parents. Brie Larson played his sister, who was always on the phone and it’s only at the end that she finally speaks. I got the joke about her role, I thought it was funny, but Larson is such a gifted actress, I felt she was underused and it was wasted time not to benefit from her talent more.
About the themes of the film. Don Jon is a short film, it was brief and it presented its message in a simple but effective way. Still, I was disappointed. When I saw the trailer, where it presents more of Jon’s relationship with Barbara, I thought the film would be about how men and women are alienated about love and sex because of their idealization in porn and romantic comedies respectively. I wanted the film the explore this aspect more. I think it would have made the movie more complex, in a good way. But, you do realize at the end that the director made its point. However, this problem is bigger and could have been discussed further.
Despite its flaws, Don Jon is definitely an improvement in the romantic comedy genre. It has some funny moments. The actors are good and the film’s message is understood. A fine directorial debut from a very good actor.