Movie Review: Don Jon


Jon (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a clubbing Jersey bro with too much hair gel and a neurotic workout plan.  He loves being with a new girl every week, UNTIL he meets the girl of his dreams, Barbara (Scarlett Johannson).  Things are going good with her until she discovers his secret…  He loves pornography.  I mean, he LOVES it.  More than he loves love.  He loves it ridiculous amounts of times a week.  So he has to learn about life priorities while resisting the urge to punch car windows for 90 minutes.  He only succeeds in one of those things, by the way.

It’s a really honest movie, and it lets us form our own opinions about the characters.  It’s interesting the different perspectives that can form from a person to person basis.  For example, my girlfriend thought the movie villainized the Barbara character for getting really upset about his porn watching.  I think that’s a yes and a no.  I thought *within* the film, she was definitely made to be a villain, because it was told through Jon’s eyes.  But if you look at it from an outside, critical standpoint, she certainly wasn’t wrong in her actions.  She did what was right by her, and quite frankly, it would be hard to ignore the level of addiction that Jon was exhibiting.  The film gave us any and all sides of the issue, and as the audience, we do with it what we want.  I thought it was at least fair in giving all of the characters ample time to express their feelings.  Maybe the anti-porn stance wasn’t told exclusively through Barbara, but in a combination of everyone else Jon meets; even the people who positively impacted his life in the end.


Of the deeper themes of the film, it’s a movie about unrealistic expectations based on the media we consume.  Jon has an unrealistic expectation of women and sex based on the porn he watches.  Barbara has an unrealistic expectation of a man’s role in a relationship based on the romantic movies she watches.  Admittedly, Barbara’s expectations certainly could have been developed more, but the unevenness made sense considering, again, this is more of Jon’s story.  The only character who has realistic expectations is the older woman Jon meets later in the film (Julianne Moore), but that notion came with a big price.  Nobody is perfect, and life choices can have serious consequences.  And stuff.  It’s best not to judge, but at the same time, Jon’s excessiveness is worthy of intervention.

I loved all of the little touches throughout the film, most of which go almost completely unmentioned during the film.  For example, they never explain why Jon and his dad wear matching white tank tops every time they have dinner together.  Or that Brie Larson was cast as Jon’s sister, and despite the fact she’s in every fourth scene, she only has one line in the entire movie.  Or my favorite, the fact that Jon has severe (and hilarious) road rage, which is shown in five second spurts throughout the film, for seemingly no reason.


The editing is awesome in this one.  They really play with repetition to an astounding degree.  We are often exposed to the same shots five or six times throughout the movie at different stages of character development.  Jon is a guy of routines, and it’s interesting to see how his life gets shifted as he chooses to alter it.  I also just liked the overall editing style, with a lot of quick cuts and close-ups, and splicing in additional footage when they saw fit to do so.  I think someone watched Requiem for a Dream before they made this movie…

JGL did a really good job in all aspects of this production.  We all know he can act, but now we know he can write and direct too.  He created a really interesting protagonist in Jon.  An obviously flawed character, he’s still got enough minor positives to his personality that you kind of hope that he gets better.  As a good example of his flawed personality, he’s a guy who apologizes for all of his mistakes each week in a church confessional, so at least he shows some signs of remorse for his behavior.  But at the same time, he appears to be going through his life not hoping to be squeaky clean, but rather to minimize his spiritual damage as much as possible.  He gets giddy when he is only told to do five Hail Marys instead of the usual ten.  Not the greatest life philosophy, if that’s not obvious, but I guess he’s trying.

Still, jerkin it 11 times in one day, and 35 times in one week are, like, serial killer numbers.  The dude has a problem.  The fact that he *has* to look at porn on his phone when he’s at class, or driving in his car, puts him in some sort of seriously deranged category of porn watching.  So I thought having him represent that side of the issue is a bit of an unfair generalization.  That’d be like having a debate on the downsides of sugar consumption in society, and the guy arguing why candy is so great is an over-the-top singing Willy Wonka-type, clamoring about replacing concrete with milk chocolate.  They just don’t exactly represent the norm.


The rest of the cast fills in nicely.  Making Tony Danza play Jon’s dad is possibly the definition of perfect casting.  I don’t know who the lady who played his mom was, but she did a good “crying, over-excited Italian mother” characterization.  Though, Scarlett’s New Jersey accent is a little, uh, annoying?  Is that the right word?  Also, did the casting call ask for someone who could do their best “Turtle from Entourage” impression, for Jon’s club buddy?  I don’t know who that dude was, but I’m sure he’ll be the guy who takes all the roles that Jerry Ferrara passes on for the rest of his career.  That’s kind of sad.

Don Jon is a pretty well crafted movie, but not really fully realized either.  Elements of the movie seemed like a creepy dive into his addiction, but then for the most part it felt like a romantic comedy.  And it’s weird how the ending is somehow not open-ended, but doesn’t really come to a conclusion either.  I think five more minutes, and a bit less voice over explanation would have gone a long way.  I don’t know, I thought the movie was somewhat intelligently written up until the very end, then Levitt just decided to bluntly tell us what’s going on in a very rushed kind of way.  SUBTLETY JGL.  SUBTLETY.  Kind of like how he subtly got “Good Vibrations” stuck in my head ever since I saw the movie.

8 out of 10

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