“There are only a few things Jon really cares about in life. His body. His pad. His ride. His family. His church. His boys. His girls. His porn.” The quote is lifted directly from the movie Don Jon, penned and directed by Gordon-Levitt. It, unfortunately, also describes the whole plot of the movie, repeated ad nauseam until end credits. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Jon, a Jersey Shore Guido with the looks and machismo to get so much pussy his friends call him The Don. One evening Jon meets Barbara out at the clubs and she is a total “dime” aka 10. But instead of taking her back to his place and “smashing it”, she goes home; having never been turned down before, Jon is intrigued. Fast forward a bit, and we find out that she doesn’t like the fact that he watches porn and does his own housekeeping (not at the same time), in fact, it’s a deal breaker. Enter Julianne Moore as Esther, Jon’s classmate, who notices him watching porn on his phone. What does she do? She buys him a Swedish “Art Film” and tells him it’s better than the crap he’s watching on the sly. To say anything more would be giving away the ending, though it’s telegraphed from 20 minutes in.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the most talented actors of his generation; his acting chops and overall integrity are beyond reproach – even GI Joe. And I’m not going to lie, I would have his baby. I must not be the only one that feels this way, given the PR campaign and the amount of press the movie has received. Understandably, I had very high hopes for Don Jon, which is why it pains me to say the movie isn’t very good. In fact, it’s actually kind of bad. The first 45 minutes play like an extended episode of Jersey, where nothing really happens until Julianne Moore shows up reprising her role of Amber Waves from Boogie Nights minus the cocaine.
As I mentioned above the movie repeats the same three or four scenarios over and over again, and while I understand that Gordon-Levitt is trying to make us see how routine Jon’s life is, it doesn’t make for very entertaining viewing. I thought I could never get tired of his smarmy, sideways smirk — the one featured on the poster — but after seeing it scene after scene, while the movie spun its wheels not going anywhere, it got old. Equally repetitive are the dinner scenes with his family, featuring Tony Danza, Glenne Headly and Brie Larson. Larson, embodying Chekhov’s Gun, only once looks up from her cellphone at the end of the film to deliver wise, sisterly advice. Between dinner and dates, we have multiple scenes at the gym, confessions in church where Jon tells the Father how many times he’s jerked it in the past week, and scenes with Jon driving like an asshole.
I think if Gordon-Levitt was either directing or writing along with starring, Don Jon could have been salvaged. Being writer/director/lead actor, the task was too much for one novice to handle. A separate director could have given Gordon-Levitt the writer notes on how to diversify his script. A separate screenwriter may have seen that Gordon-Levitt the director was being repetitious and dull. I still love Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I would still have his baby, but I have to say that while cutting his teeth on Don Jon, he bit off more than he could chew.
Judd: 2 Stars