Barbara believes that life should be just like it is in the movies. Jon thinks the same thing. They’re a match made in heaven, or Hollywood, right?
WRONG! Barbara’s favorite films are big list romances written by Nicholas Sparks while Jon watches hardcore internet porn written by random bearded men with no sense of self-purpose.
Uh-oh… Here we go.
This bumpy relationship is at the dead center of Don Jon, an impressive first time debut from the always clever and wry Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In this movie, JGL directs, writes, and stars as a playboy straight from the beaches of Jersey Shore.
Jon lives the standard guido life, hitting the gym, the church, and the club each and every week without fault. Yet although he always leaves the club with an 8 or above on the hotness scale, there is a problem. None of the women he meets, nope, not even the “dimes” (meaning a 10/10), can compare with his unrealistic porn fantasies waiting for him at home on his laptop.
Until he meets Barbara Sugarman.
The role is excellently played by Scarlet Johansson, who puts on her best Jersey Shore impression, all the way down to the tight jeans and tall heels. It’s fairly obvious why Jon would try to give up his porno problem for this “dime” , but it’s also obvious to see just how hard it is on him when he can’t.
But Don Jon is a comedic satire, not a 7-step romance drama. And it’s a pretty witty one, too. This is because Don Jon gets its pained smiles not only from Jon, but from Barbara too. Although Jon’s porno fantasy life may be sleazy and easier to poke fun at, Barbara’s Hollywood daydreams are twisted as hell. Her pearly white of ideal of prince charming is impossible to achieve, and as she pushes Jon to become perfect, he reaches his breaking point.
JGL’s distinct direction is both fun and bold, using repetition (same angles and same dialog in man shots) to really underline his habits and addictions.
The only time Don Jon really messes up is with the introduction of Esther, played by Julianne Moore, a free spirit whom Jon meets at a night-school class. Her character provides a much more mature perspective of relationships and love than Jon is accustomed to.
Moore is terrific and surprisingly enough, the film doesn’t make a big deal about the age difference. The problem I mentioned earlier is that she and her character are so good, you want to see more of her. However, while her character is in it’s growing stage, there is sudden need to close everything up in some sort of magic hour and a half, and as a result, Moore’s role isn’t allowed to bloom and the ending feels hurried.
In conclusion, I feel that Don Jon should have at least gone on for another 20 minutes or so, just enough time for it to end on an even footing (instead of stumbling into the credits). Which is impressive because I can’t even remember the last time I wanted a romantic comedy to be longer. The fact that Don Jon disappointed me a little at the end means two things: that it has a promising and entertaining intro, and that JGL has the potential and improvement-room to become a great filmmaker.