MRR Review: "Don Jon"

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A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.
3.5

MRR Review: "Don Jon"

Rating: R (strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language, and some drug use)
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: Sept.27, 2013
Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Genre: Comedy/Drama

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a proud Jersey boy who works in a bar and earns enough to make a decent living and go out with his "boys," Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke). Together, the three boys hit the bars when they aren't working, and Jon uses his considerable charm and muscled physique to woo the ladies. He has a series of one-night stands that he doesn't find particularly satisfying because the encounters are not like the ones he sees in his vast collection of Internet pornography. He regularly leaves his conquests asleep in bed in order to go view porn on his computer, preferring the company of strangers on film to the real deal.

Though he is clearly a porn addict, Jon doesn't see it as a problem at all, and nobody says a thing until one night he meets the gorgeous Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). She is the blonde bombshell of Jon's dreams, so of course he pursues her. For the first time ever, Jon's charms don't work and Barbara makes him put a lot of effort in to win her attention. Instead of giving up, he is intrigued and tries to court her, taking his time and even introducing her to his parents Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) and Angela (Glenne Headly). As they begin to take their relationship to the next level, she catches him watching his dirty movies late one night and gets angry about it. She orders him to get his life together by going to night school and eliminating porn from his life.

Jon sadly decides that he would rather watch movies than stay with Barbara, and the two break up. After realizing what he has lost, he tries to slowly take steps to change his ways. He enrolls in night school classes and meets the lovely Esther (Julianne Moore), who he quickly becomes friends with. They discuss his romantic failures, and she gives him advice about the difference between desiring your partner and objectifying her. Even though he is emotionally shallow, Jon is still a smart man, and slowly he begins to learn what he has done wrong, and what he has to do to make it right.

One of the pivotal parts of the film is when Barbara meets Jon's parents for the first time, because she isn’t the only one finally figuring out why Jon is the way he is. The audience is finding out just who he is as well, which is a nice bit of character development in the script written by Gordon-Levitt. Instead of treating Jon as some kind of superficial lug of a man who can't be changed, Gordon-Levitt decided to show that he is capable of change. Introducing the audience to his parents serves to show just how deep-seeded Jon's women issues are, since his dad says things like "that's mine" in reference to his wife. When a child grows up watching his father refer to his mother as property rather than as a human being, that person is bound to have problems later. Seeing how much he had to overcome only makes viewers appreciate just how far Jon has come by the end of the movie.

Gordon-Levitt does an admirable job of playing the role, not only because he is a good actor, but because he had to direct himself in a role he also wrote. It's a very ambitious triple play that he attempts to pull off, but he succeeds quite well. Jon isn't a very likable character at first, but he slowly grows throughout the movie into someone viewers really want to see happy. If Gordon-Levitt himself wasn't such a likable actor, the role might not have worked, so it's good that he had the chutzpah to cast himself as the lead.

The film was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013, where critics got a chance to see the first cut of the film, which featured a lot of racy scenes that have since been deleted in order to get an "R" rating. The name of the film was also cut from "Don Jon's Addiction" to just "Don Jon," though Jon’s addiction is still a prominent theme in the movie. Even with these changes, the spirit of the film is still very much alive, only now it is more accessible to a wider audience. If that wider audience shows up to buy tickets, viewers should expect to see much more from Gordon-Levitt as a writer and director in the future, based on this very solid debut.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5