This week Jonny and I caught the directorial debut of Tommy Solomon from 3rd Rock from the Sun. You might know him by his non-alien-posing-as-a-human name Joseph Gordon-Levitt. As per the usual, this review is separated into my thoughts and the rambling medicated thoughts of Jonny Prophet.
There will be some spoilers, but it’s cool. I totally won’t ruin the big secret that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time… oh crap.
Toaster’s Contribution: I went into the movie believing that it would be one of those “indie” romantic comedies like 500 Days of Summer, another JGL flick I loved. (I want to be clear, I am not using his initials to be trendy or cool but because I am too lazy to type out his name over and over.) However, I was wrong. Don Jon was not a romantic comedy, at least not in the formulaic way that I think of romantic comedies. This is good, because I usually hate rom-coms. There are exceptions, but they usually require approaching the much abused genre from another angle. Anyways, while this movie seemed like it was going to be a romantic comedy, it became something very unique. It was a very honest comedy.
If there is anything that Don Jon accomplishes, it is showing how talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt really is. He wrote, directed and starred in the film, but it went beyond that really. JGL got the character in ways I’m not sure other actors would have. He became Jon Martello. From the Jersey accent, to his physique, to his swagger and his mannerisms, JGL transformed himself in ways that few actors can and that really impressed me.
Jon Martello, given the mafia inspired nickname “Don” by his friends because of his amazing talent for picking up women, is a simple guy. He loves his car, his family, working out, picking up women and masturbating to pornography. Like to him, jerking off to the internet is some existential experience… even better than sex with a woman. He meets his dream girl Barbara (played by a Jersey accented Scarlet Johansson) who coerces him to change his life using sexual gratification as a reward. She particularly freaks out at the discovery that Jon wanks it to porn, which becomes a recurring sore point in their relationship as it is one aspect of his character that Jon seems unable to give up. While taking a class, under the “recommendation” of Barbara, Jon meets Esther (Julianne Moore), an eccentric woman who starts making him question his life’s choices.
The honesty that I spoke of is often what drives the humor in Don Jon. You learn that Jon’s addiction to pornography (as he cannot seem to masturbation without it) comes from his own perceptions of what sex means. The concept of “making love” is lost on him as when he has physical relations with a woman, he feels the need to perform like the videos he watches. A great deal of the humor is derived from Jon’s own weaknesses and flaws with much emphasis on the male sex drive and how that comes to define Jon. The movie doesn’t sugarcoat things.
While I really enjoyed Don Jon, I don’t think it was great. Though they intertwined somewhat, the plot threads involving Barbara and Esther felt like two very different stories merged into one. While the influences of Barbara and Esther are equally relevant to Jon’s path in life, one did not completely necessitate the other. I don’t want to go into too much detail as to spoil the overall film. In the end, the film didn’t have much of a climax to me; it was sort of just a change in direction for Jon. I will say on a positive note that the third act could have gone rom-com cliché, but I’m glad it didn’t. The ending is at least true to the characters, which is very important to the integrity of the story itself.
I thought the acting was great. Like I said, JGL was amazing. Scarlett Johansson is becoming quite a good actress and her role here can be added to that list. I really loved the repeated visits to the Martello household for Jon’s Sunday dinners with his folks. Glenne Headley played the stereotypical smothering Italian mother. Tony Danza was hilarious as Jon’s dad, a loud mouthed man’s man with a love of football. Headley and Danza played really well off each other making for some really funny scenes. In addition, I think JGL has a definite future as a director. For his first time behind the camera, this had better direction than many veteran filmmakers. I think that Don Jon is a project that Joseph Gordon-Levitt should be very proud of and I hope to see more of him as an actor as well as writer and director.
Jonny’s Contribution: 1. Tony Danza is awesome! 2. I’m glad the movie didn’t end in a cliché. 3. I’d like to see more films from Tommy Solomon.
Holy crap! That was actually a relevant contribution to the review! That can only mean that I must have accidentally left with someone else and Jonny’s still sitting in the theater! I gotta go find him!
Until the next review… Stay Strange!