The Pitch: Jon’s Addiction.
The Cockney Rhyming Slang Review: Due to the graphic and adult nature of the content of this film and my desire to make this as much of a PG (or 12A) blog as possible, I have replaced the stronger terms in this review with Cockney Rhyming Slang. Most of the translations are courtesy of whoohoo.co.uk and londontopia.net.
A friend of mine once asked me why being called a merchant banker was an insult. His reasoning was that everyone does it, so why would anyone be offended to be called one? Maybe there’s still a social stigma to anyone who prefers merchant banking to good, old fashioned Posh ‘N’ Becks, possibly some deep seated religious conscience. Strictly speaking, there’s nowhere in the Bible that condemns merchant banking, but it does condemn certain sexual practices, and (especially for men) there’s an association between merchant banking and Frankie Vaughn, as many men feel the need for a bit of Frankie to get themselves in the right state of Chinese Blind. It’s easy to take the moral high ground and to Barnaby Rudge those who do, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first film for the Stevie Nicks attempts to understand what makes a young man want to play with his Uncle Silly while watching Frankie.
As well as directing Gordon-Levitt is the la-di-da of his own film, the Jon of the title, a young man who’s disenchanted with the physical nature of his physical relationship with twist’n’twirls. He’s in the rub-a-dub every night with a different twist, but ending up in Uncle Ned with them is never as satisfying as the time on his own with his pistol and shooter. When he meets Scarlett Johanssen he tries to be a better old pot and pan, but he’s soon falling into the same old patterns, patterns repeated in his weekly confession at the left in the lurch. He gets his strong New York passions from his dad Tony Danza, while his sock and blister Brie Larson sits silently in judgement. The only person who truly seems to understand him is fellow student Julianne Moore, a few donkey’s ears older than JGL and the only one who doesn’t seem to sit in judgement.
Gordon-Levitt follows the typical path for this kind of jackanory, surrounding his Jon with other alpha males, but the Frankie remains resolutely off the Betty Grable when it comes to getting under the true nature of his Barney Rubbles. While he makes some interesting decisions as a director, the script is generic and Jon starts out as little more than a caricature. He’s a Max Factor of credit and gradually shades in Jon with levels of detail, but it’s the performance more than the storytelling that makes Jon feel real. It’s not helped by Scarlett Johansson, who also seems to act in one too many stereotypes and it’s difficult to orange peel anything much for either of them. It’s only when Julianne Moore shows her Chevy Chase that Don Jon starts to generate any kind of depth or satisfying narrative arc.
So Don Jon is an odd hybrid, of an exploration of onanistic pleasures, a coming of age story and an unusual turtle dove story. It doesn’t have anything profound to say about merchant banking, Frankie Vaughn or Posh ‘n‘ Becks but it does at least see the other aspects of its story through to a reasonable conclusion. It’s a mixed start to JGL’s directorial career, and you can see what he was aiming for to a point, but it’s all a touch predictable and safe, which is quite an achievement for such potentially offensive subject matter. Let’s hope that this is the start of a long career : I Adam and Eve that young Joe’s got plenty of talent but next time I hope, with no small sense of irony, he shows slightly more orchestra stalls.
Why see it at the cinema: If you didn’t feel you got enough cinema discomfort from watching Blue Is The Warmest Color, here’s an ideal opportunity to test your tolerance for sitting in a room full of strangers while topics not normally discussed in polite conversation are brought up repeatedly.
What about the rating: Rated 18 for strong sex and sex references. Also has a tiny bit of bad language and some joint smoking, but even so it’s far from the most extreme 18 rated film I’ve seen and there’s very little dwelling on the material at hand.
My cinema experience: Having missed this at my local Cineworld, I ventured further afield to catch both this and Captain Phillips at the Cineworld in Braintree. A good job I was only seeing two films, as the car park appears to have a six hour limit (so no seeing seven films in a day here). It appears to be a newer Cineworld, as the seats were still comfortable and I managed to find plenty of legroom in both screens, and there were no sound or vision issues in either film. The only slight downer was that I was actually sold a ticket for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa instead of Don Jon, so had a mad dash to the concessions desk after Captain Phillips to find someone to tell me which screen I was actually supposed to be in.
The Score: 6/10