Classic Movie Review: Don John (2013)

Posted: April 27, 2014 in Comedy, Drama
Tags: , ,


Jon (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a 20 something, single bartender, he likes to work out, he likes to go clubbing with his pals, Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke) He drives a 1972 Chevy Chavelle, and works out regularly.  Jon lives with his parents Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) Angela (Glenne Headly) and his sister, Monica.(Brie Larson)  Jon goes to church regularly, he sleeps around nightly, and is obsessed with pornography.  He doesn’t think he’s going to settle down , but then he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and she is a 10 on his scale, and is everything he wants in a woman.

Barbara wants to meet his parents, she wants Jon to go to school to be better than a bartender, and he wants Jon to be exclusive to her.  He dutifully does all this, but can’t give up his porn addiction.  Barbara catches him one day, he gets out of it by saying one of his friends sent it to him one day, and swears to give it up, but doesn’t.

At his night class, Jon meets a quirky older woman, named Esther (Julianne Moore) and they strike up an unlikely friendship.    What does his porn addition do to his relationship with Barbara?  Does he confide his obsession to his new friend Esther?

I love this movie.  To most, it would seem like Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a stereotype. He plays a Guido, if you don’t know what that is Google it.  He’s a musclehead, he drives a fast car, he has a hot girlfriend. Jon should be happy, but he isn’t.  He doesn’t realize it, but he’s being used by Barbara, who just wants someone to manipulate.  He has a rationale for his addiction, so he doesn’t see it as a problem, but it increasingly takes over his life.

What I like about this movie is the complexity of the Jon character.  His life is a walking dichotomy; he is part altar boy and part playboy. Jon sleeps around, but he goes to church, he moves on to have a steady girlfriend, which to him means respectability, but he watches porn every day, which even he realizes is getting out of hand. This movie contains a lot of truths, about sex, love relationships and the destructiveness of pornography, namely the objectification of women.  Mainly, what this movie has going for it is, it’s damn funny.  Jon says the Lord’s Prayer while working out, his sister always has her face stuck in front of the phone, texting, and Jon’s Catholic Church confessions are laugh out loud funny.  There is a scene where Jon and Barbara are also having an argument about Swiffer pads that is classic comedic dialogue.  There’s also a fake movie with Ann Hathaway and Channing Tatum which is also hilarious. There is also a subtle commentary about the prevalence of scantily clad women in everyday mainstream culture, from fashion magazines to tv commercials. The relationship with Esther is a little far-fetched, but it works in the larger scheme of things.

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays this character perfectly, the muscles the hair gel, the car, the women, the porn, all leads you to believe that he’s a jerk, but he’s really not.  He lives with his parents, he is a person of faith (however superficial that faith is) and he wants to settle down, he’s just not sure if Barbara is the right woman to settle down with.  He brings the perfect mixture of party boy player and sensitive guy looking for a deeper relationship to this role, with a perfect New Jersey accent, and perfect comedic timing.  Scarlett Johansson does a great job as a woman who knows what she wants, and knows how to get it.  She lays on the accent a little thick but gets the tone of the role down perfectly, she coos to Jon sweetly but she seeks to be a puppet master. Julianne Moore has gotten into a rut of playing these flighty older women , but in this movie, it works.  Great supporting performances by Tony Danza, Glenn Headly, Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke.

Congratulations to Levitt for writing and directing such a complex movie, including so many disparate topics, and making it funny to boot.  He’s got a bright career ahead of him.  The length was a perfect 90 minutes.  It’s not for kids, because of the preponderance of sex and pornography as a theme, but if you are an adult and don’t have an issue with those things, watch this movie.

Don Jon.  Dawn of a new kind of comedy.


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