Don Jon (Blu-ray Review)10 Jan, 2014 By: John Latchem
Box Office $24.48 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use.
Stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke.
The collision of expectation and reality lies at the heart of Don Jon, an exceptional directorial debut from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also stars as the title character. In particular, the film demonstrates how much ubiquitous access to media can cloud our perceptions of the real world.
Gordon-Levitt loses himself in the role of Jon, a self-obsessed Italian-American ladies man who enjoys hanging out with his friends at clubs and taking home a new girl every night. Secretly, though, Jon finds himself bored with real women and prefers the fantasy of porn, which he considers much more exciting.
Then he meets Barbara Sugarman (a smoking hot Scarlett Johansson), who gets swept away by the sentiment of Hollywood romantic comedies. As their relationship progresses, both see in the other a potential stand-in for their objectified fantasies — him a boyfriend she can mold to perfection, and her the perfect lover.
This film is very much about the routines we establish for ourselves to get through life, which is why it often repeats shots of Jon living out his weekly routine, going to the gym, going to the club, going to church, confessing his sins, having dinner with his family, and so on.
The scenes with Jon’s family are key, effectively demonstrating why he is the way he is, rebelling against his mother’s overbearing pursuit of grandchildren while silently adopting the boorish outlook of his father (played by Gordon-Levitt’s old Angels in the Outfield co-star Tony Danza, an inspired choice).
It doesn’t take long for Jon to find himself bored with Barbara in the bedroom, just like all the other girls, and he returns to the comfort of his laptop. His addiction to porn, of course, is a dealbreaker for her.
As they work through their issues, Jon finds himself drawn to Esther (Julianne Moore), an older student in one of the night classes he’s taking at Barbara’s behest. Herself a victim of a recent tragedy, Esther begins to show Jon there’s more to life than the limited scope of the world he’s created for himself. It’s significant when Jon interrupts his usual walk to the weight room to go play basketball, symbolic of the changes in his lifestyle as he begins to understand the bigger picture.
The film mines a lot of humor from the quirks of its characters, but is broad enough in its dissection of human interaction so anyone who watches should find something to relate to (though it is definitely told from a guy's point-of-view).
The Blu-ray includes several short featurettes that delve into the making of the film, which took several years for Gordon-Levitt to bring to fruition, and the themes it’s trying to explore. There’s also a series of short films in which Gordon-Levitt asks people to discuss their favorite things.