'Don Jon' (2013) Movie Review - Toronto Film Festival

Don Jon movie review
Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Don Jon
Photo: Relativity Media

Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his feature writing and directing debut with Don Jon, a relatively inconsequential film in the grand scheme of things, but a satisfying first time out showing Levitt has the chops to grow as a filmmaker. While the film largely struggles from redundancies and narrative leaps that aren't quite earned, it is rather fun and works well as a small piece of entertainment. After a while, however, you begin to feel as if you are stuck in the same narrative loop and the brief 90 minute run time begins to wear.

Don Jon
Grade: C+

Don Jon"Don Jon" is a Relativity Media release, directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and is rated R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use. The running time is .

The cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza, Brie Larson, Glenne Headly, Jeremy Luke and Sarah Dumont.

Opening with an energetic title sequence we are introduced to Jon (Gordon-Levitt) or "Don" Jon as his friends refer to him based on his ability to go home with a different girl each and every night. Jon checks all the boxes when it comes to stereotyping what has come to be known as a New Jersey "guido" as he heads out to the club with his boys -- hair slicked back, tight vest and a wandering eye as he and his friends rate the women that catch his eye. However, sex with random women on a nightly basis simply can't sate Jon's desires. Jon, as you learn from the get-go, has an addiction to porn.

Titled Don Jon's Addiction when the film premiered at Sundance earlier this year, the title, I guess, was a little too on the nose as an introductory monologue guides us through all the reasons Jon finds online porn more preferable to sex with an actual woman. And Jon isn't what you'd call an "every now and then" kind of guy. Jon masturbates 17-30 times a week and he likes to tell us (and his priest) all about it. Jon's addiction, however, is about to get in his way.

One night at the club his eye is drawn to the woman in the red dress, Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson). As Jon puts it, she's a "dime", but at the end of the night she doesn't fall for his usual charms as he heads home alone where only his computer can comfort him. Days go by, and suddenly the nameless women Jon is bedding are becoming increasingly meaningless and a meaningful relationship is suddenly what Jon wants rather than something he wants to avoid. The question is can one real woman satisfy where so many pornstars currently reign?

I liked Gordon-Levitt in the lead role and, despite how serious the film ultimately ends up, it's loaded with a lot of humor. Johansson puts on her best "Jersey Shore" accent to match those around her and Tony Danza stands out as Jon's entertaining and aggressively loud father whose mouth doesn't have any kind of a filter. There's also a cute little side joke as Brie Larson (Short Term 12) plays Jon's sister and spends virtually the entirety of the film tapping away on her cell phone, until just the right moment.

The strangest role, however, belongs to Julianne Moore, whose character surfaces rather early, but her role in the story doesn't have a natural progression. Instead, her subtle introduction and periodic appearances don't add up to much and yet she becomes an integral part of the story.

Also, holding the film back are the number of redundancies it faces as Jon's daily rituals, beyond masturbating to porn, are repeated over and over again and not to much consequence. What initially seem like cute, random asides of Jon's road rage and visits to the confessional just become repetitive and pointless, ultimately sapping whatever life they previously brought to the story.

Overall, though, I have no problem recommending this film to anyone interested in seeing it. For a debut feature it's a fun little movie and hopefully the ground floor of a successful career in filmmaking for Gordon-Levitt. However, while it's attempting to make a commentary on how we view the world through false fantasies I don't think any of that came through in the final product, at least not to the extent I think it was meant to. Instead it's just a movie about a guy overcoming his porn addiction. Nothing wrong with that.


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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Adu/ Adu

    I'm curious Brad, does the movie contain and emotional heart under the surface? I'm sure it's not like 50/50, but at least a lesser version of it perhaps?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

    I'm glad that you liked it. It seemed like a decent film, so it delivered in that regard for you.

  • http://cineenuruguay.com/ Driver

    I want to see this one for the fun angle it shows on trailers, so it's interesting to see it has a more serious side as well. I hope it doesn't ruin the experience though. Nice quick work with the review Brad.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

    I never fancied this film, it feels like a vanity piece for the director(who in truth strangely irritates me). Judging by the review it sounds like a decent directorial effort but one thats likely to be forgotten soon enough.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/navaneethks/ navaneethks

    The trailer looked fun. Glad it's a positive review. I guess now I'll be watching three movies in the theaters this month.... Prisoners, Rush and Don Jon.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Adu/ Adu

      That's a good line-up!

  • Aidan Khan

    Sounds decent. I amy check it out

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Silrian/ Silrian

    Hmmm... Nothing against JGL, but I have the feeling he just doesn't have stories to tell (yet) that are on par with the stories told in the films he acts in (which does create a sort of a-list artsy image of 'm sometimes). I'm sure JGL's a great guy and I think he's a very good actor, but he seems to suffer from a sort of recent "kevin-smithism" where he just likes so much stuff, it seems to somewhat lower his own standard (unintentionally I'm sure).

    I think this film would've been better had he waited 5 to 10 years and perhaps not stared in it, but just wrote/directed it. I'll check it out nonetheless, forcing myself to ignore my often present annoyance at ScarJo.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Foggy/ Liam Fogarty

    Sounds about in key with my expectations, issues were expected but as long as the film has a vibrant and fun attitude, I won't be too angry with shelling over a bit of cash towards this.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

    I've been curious about this just to see what kind of talent JGL has behind the camera, and the trailer and this review make it sound like a passably good time. So I still plan on catching it at the end of the month.

  • http://letterboxd.com/criterion10/ Criterion10

    I'm actually still pretty excited for this one. The trailer was very well edited, that's for sure.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ryguy815/ Ryguy815

    I'm glad you at least thought it was decent. Really looking forward to this.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Winchester/ Winchester

    I don't think sways me much one way or the other. I haven't been sitting around waiting for this film, and it seems not one to go out one's way for. I'll see what kinda mood I'm in when it hits these shores.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Django/ Django

    I don't get the love for JGL. I've seen Inception, 50/50 and Dark Knight Rises and i don't get the 'he's one of his generation's greatest actors'. He's servicable but nothing special imo.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

      oh im hearing ya brother, tis a mystery to me too,

    • RPM

      Check him out in Mysterious Skin, The Lookout, Brick, Manic, Hesher.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

        oh yeah, i forgot about Brick, Rian Johnson is obviously a very talented director ;-)

  • http://moviereviewninja.com themoviewatcher

    Glad you enjoyed it. I might check this out.