If nothing else, ‘Don Jon’ will go down in movie history as one of the most perversely exaggerated uses of New Jersey accents. Given that his a movie about porn addiction, I’m surprised that I’ve chosen to use the word “perverse” to describe the accents in this movie – people don’t “talk”, they tawk in an ova da tawp sort of way.
I didn’t like ‘Don Jon’ as I was watching it and now that a few days have passed and I’ve had some time to reflect on my experience as I write this review, I dislike it even more. The movie is sort of like a comedy version of ‘Shame’. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears three different hats – he’s the main star, writer, and director of ‘Don Jon’. I like him. I wish him all the best in the future as a filmmaker. He shows signs of promise but this is an entirely misguided effort – a failure of a film that is bad enough to make the purely innocent and untouched open their laptops and download gigabytes of obscene X-rated pornography.
Jon is a buff young dude. He hits the clubs on Saturday night, ogles some girls with his boys – they score the hotties on a scale of 0-10 and Jon makes his move on the one scored the highest (I don’t know if this is based on Jon’s score or the arithmetic mean of the three) . His technique is so good, his friends call him “The Don”. One day, he lays his sights on Barbara (played by Scarlett Johansson in a Razzie-worthy performance). Jon tries to overcome his pornography addiction when he enters a committed relationship with this woman.
The club moments are shot like montages; and so are Jon’s routines – we see him go to the gym, vacuum his place, dish out road rage en route to church, confess his sins to the Priest again and again and again. The quick cuts of these scenes are annoyingly repetitive.
Jon is addicted to porn because he can’t lose himself in another person. When the big moment between him and Barbara happens, he complains about the fact that she wanted to do it in the missionary position; and in a way, he believes that is how all women would like to have sex. Given his luck at the nightclub, I find it incredibly difficult to believe that he wasn’t able to find anyone who was willing to do anything even remotely freaky. Maybe he should try picking up at another club (at least it would permit a minor variation in the club montages).
Most of the women in the movie are unlikable. Jon’s overbearing mother seems only concerned about not having any grandchildren. Barbara as the arrogant, high-maintenance girlfriend is easy on the eyes, but when she speaks, it is the sound of nails on a chalkboard. I haven’t even mentioned Esther (Julianne Moore); but, because she is Julianne Moore, we know that this character is not going to be played for laughs. And Jon’s sister (Brie Larson) remains muted until the very end when she delivers her one line of dialogue – because she has only one line of dialogue, what she says has to be profound; am I right?
At least we get to hear Tony Danza droppin’ f-bombs – such are the meager joys of ‘Don Jon’.
‘Shame’ was a great movie – we were viewing the Michael Fassbender character from under a microscope and the close-ups on his face show us a man exorcising his sexual demons. We didn’t like him but we didn’t want to see him continue along the course of self-destruction. ‘Don Jon’ wants you to love its protagonist and tries tirelessly to get you to love him. The more the film tried, the more I resisted. As a filmgoing experience, the movie’s commentary about the pleasures and limitations of masturbation didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know. Even more unforgiving is the fact that this is a comedy and I didn’t laugh very much. QED.
3-To-See: ‘Prisoners’, ‘Rush’, ‘The World’s End’