Tuesday, October 1, 2013

DON JON Review

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's "Don Jon" is not a romantic comedy, and it's not even a movie about porn addiction. And saying such is a testament to Gordon-Levitt as an emerging writer/director who has delivered a debut that is weird, funny, confident, intelligent and, most impressive, blasts onto the scene with something to say. What it is: a movie about finding human connection in a world where media has skewered our view of relationships and how we find meaning in each other. 

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the epitome of the modern day Don Juan. He's a beefed up New Jersey guy dedicated to what's most important in his life: his boys, his girls, his family, his church, his body, his ride and his pad. And then his porn. Even though he has no trouble landing a girl every time he goes out, his real sexual thrill is still at the click of a mouse. The way Jon dishes out why is a riot: the blow jobs, the positions, the money shot. It's graphic but never gratuitous, and the frenetic way porn clips are edited together shows absolute control over a highly slick and stylized production.

From the music to the camerawork, every directorial decision is apparent in Gordon-Levitt's vision, and that's without even mentioning Gordon-Levitt the actor. He's great. The film follows Jon as he goes about his days, very set in his routine. The repetition is blatant -- down to the detail of shots showing him walking to the gym and bounding up the church steps are exactly the same every time -- and a stylistic choice but also acts as a hindrance to the film's narrative which itself becomes repetitive. Even when Jon meets the bombshell Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) who he swears will change his life, he keeps up his routine, which includes rampant porn consumption.

His parents (Glenne Headly and Tony Danza) are thrilled that his boy is finally growing up, but silent sister Monica (Brie Larson) isn't convinced. Don't miss Larson in the fabulous "Short Term 12" because here she's only given the job of one line, but it's one ripe with truth and insight and drives home Jon's ultimate self-revelation. There's also an older night school classmate, Esther (Julianne Moore), breaking him out of his mold. At first she annoys him, but they gradually begin to bond. Their scenes are the movie's most naturalistic and moving and for good reason. Moore is outstanding as always but also feels slightly miscast. As "Don Jon" plugs along in its cyclical scenes of gym, church, porn, repeat, it's hard to decipher how Esther and his relationship fall into place. Just as you reach the brink of wondering what's the point, it hits you like a ton of bricks.

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