Thursday, October 3, 2013

Movie with Abe: Don Jon

Don Jon
Directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Released September 27, 2013

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a rare success story. The 32-year-old actor started out his career on television, and shot to fame with a regular role on the comedy “3rd Rock from the Sun.” After a decent dent in independent film, Gordon-Levitt has been on fire, triumphing equally in action movies like “Inception, “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Looper,” and comedies like “500 Days of Summer” and “50/50.” For his first feature-length effort behind the camera, Gordon-Levitt chooses drama, blending in comedy and parody for an extremely effective and involving story about an addict unable to recognize his addiction.

Gordon-Levitt’s first time behind the camera produces an extremely-stylized, slickly-edited product that truly understands its protagonist. Jon narrates his story, explaining the important values in his life and exposing his firm commitment to watching porn on a daily basis and finding more satisfaction in it than he ever finds in sex, which he also has quite regularly. Jon is unapologetic about his passions, even going to church routinely to confess his sins, only to be given a strict regiment of easy actions to get himself absolved. As always tends to be the case, all that changes when Jon meets a girl and can’t see straight anymore.

This film oozes New Jersey, giving all of its characters thick, unmistakable accents and imbuing them with distinguished, stereotypical personality traits – the young guy who works out and puts gel in his hair, the well-primped girl who is always chewing gum, the father who always watches TV, the sister who is literally glued to her phone, among others. That exaggerated portrait is an asset to the film, since Jon’s obsession fits in perfectly. Though it may be purposely overdone, “Don Jon” feels authentic, and when it does goes over the top, it’s to marvelous, deliberate effect.

Gordon-Levitt dons his accent proudly and gives a tremendously committed performance, toning his mannerisms like his character tones his body and creating a sentimental jerk who is easily endearing. Scarlett Johansson deserves equal credit for contributing an irritating but seductive romantic foil for him, much more complex than she initially seems. Though she appears at first an odd fit, Julianne Moore proves exceptionally competent as a classmate of Jon’s, and Tony Danza and Brie Larson perform to perfection as Jon’s parents. Gordon-Levitt and Johansson are on exactly the same page, and so is the rest of the cast. This movie works because of its ensemble’s efforts and its sharp script by Gordon-Levitt, and there’s never a dull moment throughout this poignant and very well-executed film that heads in unexpected directions.


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