Film Review: Don Jon


   Don Jon is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's twenty first century update on Cassanova, here re-imagined as a weight-pumping, lady-killing, church-going, porn obsessed Italian-American. The ease with which adult imagery can be attained has warped the young lothario's mind - the women he meets in real life, whom he rather unpleasantly rates on a scale of one-to-ten, can never measure up to the fictional women of PornHub. Romance seems unobtainable.

   Enter stage left "Jewish Princess" Barbara (Scarlet Johansson) - a lady Jon instantly recognises as a "dime". Her hourglass figure, plump lips and doe-eyes disguise a rather unpleasant truth about the lady - she too has quite immovable expectations of what a man, and a romance, should be. Yet, it is not hardcore sex films which have blurred her expectations of real life but, rather, the seemingly less threatening myth which romantic comedies offer us. Whilst Jon may have been looking for a Jenna Jameson, Barbara has her eyes set on a Lloyd Dobler. Both warped, both unrealistic viewpoints of life and both characters seemingly bonded only by the carnal desires of lust and the hope of molding their partners as the relationship blossoms.

   Yet, beyond the smart premise and set-up showcasing how media can separate rather than bond us, the film has little to offer or suggest. As Barbara and Jon's relationship meanders, Gordon-Levitt, who wrote and directed the film as well as starring in it, begins to suggest that there may be a middle-ground between bestial urges and fairy tales - a view any sane-minded viewer would bring to the film regardless. Satire is low, the female characters largely lack depth beyond the superfice and, even at 90 minutes long, Don Jon feels like a short video dragged out exponentially beyond a suitable and conceivable running time.

   Also, Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems stretched beyond his (admittedly admirable) skill-set; the conservative directing resorts to the same framing time and again and,as a performer, Gordon-Levitt never truly convinces he is the character he is playing. His Italian-American seems more of an impression than a character. Yet, as a first effort as a writer-director, Gordon-Levitt hints at a great degree of promise in his future films - hopefully, unlike the lightweight rom-coms and porn movies shown in Don Jon, he will find tales to connect and engage us on a truthful level. He hints at such depths here and time will tell if he can deliver.
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