Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has appeared in a remarkable number of successful films in recent years, but, if his directional debut Don Jon is anything to go by, (500) Days of Summer appears to be the feature that has left the biggest impression on him. Both films bring a kinetic and inventive feel to the often conservative genre of the romantic comedy, and take the perspective of their male leads seeking to win the girl of their dreams.

But the eponymous character Gordon-Levitt creates and plays in Don Jon is a very different proposition from the hopeless romantic in (500) Days. The ‘Don’ in his nickname refers to his success at pulling in nightclubs, and he boasts of never having picked up a woman ‘who was less than an 8/10’. But the sex he has with these girls fails to give him the same gratification he experiences from porn, which he watches routinely and comprises his self-confessed favourite moments of the day. 

Such a lead character certainly injects the film with a lot more sleaze than the sweet 500 Days, but there’s still a lightness of tone and regularity of gags that makes the film far more akin to Marc Webb’s 2009 rom-com than the harrowing, unflinching depiction of sex addiction in Steve McQueen’s Shame. This film’s interest lies in witnessing its main character learn a lesson about sex and love, and of the ultimately vacuous experience of watching his pornography. 

Almost as soon as we’re shown Jon’s regular weekly routine, he becomes dissatisfied with it. The film is structured in a sort of circular shape, with the same settings – the club where he pulls, the church where he casually confesses, the gym where he atones, in his car where he rages, at his family’s place where his Dad rages at football, and at his own apartment where he indulges in his favourite hobby   - all being used consecutively. He seeks a way out of this monotonous existence through an alluring girl (Scarlett Johansson) he meets during one night at the club, and who he imagines could be the one he finally settles down with. 

It is to Don Jon’s credit that events don’t play out quite as obviously as they could have done. Given the leery way the film, through Jon’s eyes, perceives all of the women on screen, the disinterested manner in which Julianne Moore’s character appears deep into the film sees her enter almost unnoticed, but, as the third character on the poster, it’s clear she’ll have a big part to play. In fact, typically for any character played by Julianne Moore, she is probably the most interesting person present, and it is a shame she isn’t introduced earlier and given more time to be fleshed out. 

But this is Gordon-Levitt’s film, and his interest is reserved for the title character played by him. It isn’t a character study with the aspirations of ­Shame, but could nonetheless be remembered as an entertaining and stylish film with a satisfying morale, that marked the beginning of a successful directional career of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 


No comments:

Post a Comment