18 November 2013

DON JON- Review

Let's not mess about pretending that we don't all like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, yeah? I like him, you like him- by all accounts, he's a well-liked screen presence. His directorial debut, Don Jon is a romantic comedy about a man who's addicted to watching online porn, and even if the cards are stacked in the film's favour on account of its leading man's popularity and charisma, there's still a lot to like about it.

In addition to writing and directing this film, Jo-Go stars in the leading role, as Jon. While he manages to split his time between a disciplined routine of going to the gym, cleaning his bachelor pad and attending church every Sunday morning, he always finds himself returning to his laptop for sexual gratification. When he falls for Barbara, a smoking hot romantic who loves soppy movies, he's faced with the choice of changing for the better or sticking to his stagnant and objectified view of sex.

As Gordon-Levitt branches out in feature writing and directing, my impression of Don Jon was that a lot of the things that are impressive about it are a result of the directing, whereas the writing is more prone to let the side down. Given the subject matter, the style of this film is impeccable. It's intentionally repetitive and lascivious, with editor Lauren Zuckerman and cinematographer Thomas Kloss both helping to build up a sense of routine and instant gratification.

Zuckerman's editing sends the film on bungee jumps into an abyss of repetition, always bouncing back before it becomes repetitive itself, via subtle differences that occur as the story progresses. Trips to confession, and then to the gym, and then to a nightclub, quickly and simply establish Jon's addictive personality. Each confession comes with a penance that is grunted out during weightlifting sessions, (with Jon keeping score of how many prayers he's given to recite) right before he goes on the pull that evening and sins all over again. The motif of the Mac OS X start-up sound effect is particularly effective, as Jon unashamedly admits that even logging on to his laptop turns him on.

To give credit where it's due, the script plays a role in keeping the film from getting too repetitive, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has enough to say in response to the sheer stamina with which it's been brought to the screen. While each repetition comes to mark a progression in the story, it still feels somewhat slow in the delivery. The longer it goes on, the further it drifts from that initial premise of bringing together two people with pre-configured, equally artificial, but utterly opposed ideas of romance. Scarlett Johansson (who has never looked sexier that she does here, by the way) has less of a role too, but despite feeling slightly tacked on, alongside that central idea, it's Julianne Moore who saves it.

While Moore is the best performer in this by a long way, Gordon-Levitt turns around a leading man who is full of macho superficiality with his natural screen presence, and there are some very enjoyable supporting turns from Tony Danza as Jon's dad, while Brie Larsen makes the most of a thankless, Silent Bob-esque role as his sister. Look out for cameos by Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway, too, at a point before the film becomes slightly more self-conscious of avoiding the very romcom tropes they came in to lampoon.

Don Jon benefits from having the same swagger as its leading man, and it's accordingly appealing, despite all of its shortcomings. It's not nearly as shallow, but it feels like a film of two halves, and for her part, Julianne Moore raises the bar further than the film is able to consistently reach. Gordon-Levitt brings a warm, candid sense of humour and dramatic irony that almost carries it through, but strictly on the surface of it, it's easier to get excited about his next directorial effort, than his next screenplay.

Don Jon is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Don Jon, why not share your comments below? Also: should there be an Oscar for Best Filming Of Scarlett Johansson? Seriously, there's a point where Barbara convinces Jon to go back to school, that almost hypnotised ME into going back to school.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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