Screened Out – Don Jon

By : Stephen Miller
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlet Johanssen, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Julianne Moore

Don Jon is a comedy without intellectuals. In fact, it’s populated with the sort of stupid people that American audiences have been overexposed to on Jersey Shore. But in Don Jon, the slick bros and tightly clothed chicks are subtler, more real, funnier, and infinitely more watchable.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt hits it out of the park in his first shot as writer/director. In some ways, he gave himself an easy game, skewering the goombas of the Garden State. In another sense, he has quite a challenge – to make these meatheads charming, comedic, and completely worth our empathy and attention.

If we plumbed, the theme of Don Jon would be objectification and what it costs us; in fact, it’s about the types of characters who have been objectified by the media.

On the surface, though, Don Jon is simply – dare I say – enchanting. It’s the type of hilarious, small film I feel is totally worth the price of admission.

Gordon-Levitt’s Jon has eight great loves in his life: his women, his pad, his family, his friends, his car, his body, his church, and porn. Lots and lots of porn. He admits he even likes porn better than women, because porn is less demanding. However, when he meets Johanssen at a club, he thinks he can maybe shift his priorities a bit. As he falls more and more for this girl, we see his seven other greatest loves take a hit. Is Johanssen worth it, or is she requiring him to change too much? She forces him into night school, she keeps him from his pals, and she even tries to erase some other habits she thinks are emasculating. In fact, the only thing that Gordon-Levitt hides from her is his porn.

Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Writer/Director Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brie Larson make a wacky Garden State family

Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Writer/Director Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brie Larson make a wacky Garden State family

So much is exactly right here. The characters are never looked down upon. The family (Danza and the wonderful Headly) is Italian – slightly stereotypical, but never in a way that feels pandering. The comedic timing in everything – the script, the casting, the acting, the music, and even the editing –  is spot on. Trips to the gym, to church, to the family home for dinner, and to the laptop for more porn are each struck with separate, hysterical leitmotifs.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Then, sort of late in the film, Gordon-Levitt meets Julianne Moore at night school (the classes Johanssen is forcing him to take). In true fashion, Moore steals the film. Here, the movie finds its real tenderness and subtlety.

Much more could be written about this brief gem, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention to my readers that Gordon-Levitt has grown from the kid on 3rd Rock from the Sun into quite a smoking hottie. Ironically, his many shirtless moments may inspire the type of pornographic objectification his character is trying to overcome.

But that’s not the biggest reason to see Don Jon. Here, Gordon-Levitt shows Hollywood how to concentrate on character, to love your people – no matter how small and petty – and deliver a comedic mother lode.

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