Sunday, 24 November 2013

Don Jon Review



Joseph Gordon-Levitt has long been moving into writing and directing when he launched his site and production company hitRECord. It’s been growing and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has stayed heavily involved with it branching out into the world of TV with its own programme and with Don Jon, which he has used to launch into filmmaking. He’s unstoppable at the moment, popping up in plenty of huge films, linked to almost every big casting call and now moving into writing and directing his own features. He’s the man to beat but when an actor turns to writing and directing, it isn’t always worthwhile, it can be quite a disappointment but is Don Jon a success? In short, yes, especially for a debut.

Jon, or the Don as he’s known to his friends for his nightclub streak, is addicted to porn because it’s the only way he can lose himself, he prefers it to the real deal as he says. He goes out pulling on a seemingly nightly basis, then heading to church to confess and off to the gym to say his prayers to repent. Although he claims to love his life it’s mainly about his porn since it’s the only way he can lose himself in anything. That’s until a “dime” shows up in Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, who he is willing to give up his addiction and change his life pretty drastically because she’s seen one too many romcoms. Constantly pleased by the movie star giving up everything in their life that they love for their partner, as a selfless act which ultimately promotes the selfishness of the other half. True love they call it in these films she watches.

Ultimately its message is clear for both genders because each gender romances to different but ultimately destructive forms of media. Men constantly fantasise about these unrealistic women who are insatiable when it comes to what Don Jon loves. Women idolise romances in which sacrifices are made by only one party, claiming that it’s “only one thing” when in reality those one things add up to completely change who they’re with. That moment is best represented in a single scene at a store which shows how irrational Barbara is being. It may not be a subtle message but sometimes points need hammering, it still feels like the audience walk out and shrug it off. Probably because it’s mainly a comedy.

Stylistically there are some great touches for a new director who may not be making an authorial stamp but using the style to portray its character. Early on, the camerawork is methodical, the editing quick, it’s clean and constant. Later on, it starts to exchange some of the steady shots earlier for some handheld shot and reverse shots which may be intentional or financial. Whether or not it’s intentional to slow it all down for the character may be purposeful but it feels like it interrupts the flow of the film so far. On the comedy side of it, it maintains its laughs throughout without feeling cheap, unearned or bottom of the barrel, continually being fresh.

The characters shouldn’t be likeable but they’re saved by their performances, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt who adds likeability to what would be a charisma vacuum in other hands. Cleverly he’s kept his performance the right side of arrogant and proud to the point of it being more comedic rather than disgusting, witty not repulsive. Scarlett Johansson achieves the same thing as her airhead princess Barbara Sugarman who is suffering from delusion of grandeur, feeling like royalty with an accent that turns your stomach it’s so strong. Gordon-Levitt may have written these characters more as caricatures but they’re not exactly non-existent in a world filled with Jersey Shore; no matter how much we fail to believe it, there are people like it. When Julianne Moore shows up it’s an enjoyable character that may have one of the most surprising introductions.

Don Jon is definitely a success in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career, safely segueing himself into the world of filmmaking and as a writer-director to watch. He has plenty of flair, a lot of creativity, messages and the power of friendship to bring in great actors to inhabit his roles. Its message is one that’s important; though it has an 18 rating (R-rated) it should be shown to a younger audience so they may take away the message and save themselves a life of loneliness and disappointment. It’s emotionally successful if a little clunky at its finale, it constantly preaches about something interesting like porn, romcoms, the media and religion – playing on Jon’s heavy involvement with Catholicism. Don Jon is one of the more comedic films of the year with a message that trumps the emptiness of the rest of the year. A blackly comic drama that is itself a romcom but with a much needed rejuvenation. A – umm, cough – pleasure.

★★★★