By Chris Rebholz
Jan 10, 2014 10:46 AM EST

Don Jon Blu-ray Review

Don Jon isn't a perfect film, but it's a damned enjoyable one.
Don Jon Blu-ray Review
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Once the scrawny kid from "3rd Rock From the Sun," Gordon-Levitt has filled out for the role of a modern-day Don Juan, who is first seen deep in the throes of orgasm. Looking like a castaway from "Jersey Shore," gym-built, greasy-haired bartender Jon has been getting his jollies from explicit videos three, four, sometimes 10 times a day for so long, the real deal no longer thrills him.

This poses a challenge when he spies fantasy girl Barbara (Scarlett Johannsen, looking like a live-action Jessica Rabbit) at the club. Sure, sex is fun, but not nearly as satisfying as porn, Jon explains in the film's flashy opening voiceover, articulating a troubling value shift few have had the courage to raise, while liberally illustrating the point with the visual stimuli on which he's come to rely for one-sided thrills.
Barbara insists on a more traditional courtship, however, dragging Jon to the movies, which supply equally unrealistic albeit more socially acceptable romantic expectations (courtesy of Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway, who cameo in clips for a "SNL"-worthy Nicholas Sparks sendup called "Special Someone"). When Barbara finally does give in and sleep with Jon, he still can't resist sneaking out of bed for a digital top-off, jeopardizing what's shaping up to be his first serious relationship when she catches him making love to his laptop.
Before meeting Barbara, all Jon cared about were his physique, his neat-freak apartment, his classic muscle car, his "boys" (Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke play his wingmen) and his "girls" (an ever-revolving cast of red-hot one-night stands). Being a good Catholic kid, he cares about family and church, too, though it's a running joke to see how the family (Tony Danza, Glenne Headley and Brie Larson) eats dinner and attends mass, rarely giving either matter their undivided attention. Sunday confession offers weekly absolution for Jon's carnal transgressions, and the meathead duly incorporates his prayer-reciting penance into his workout routine.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Don Jon is the fact that Gordon-Levitt could have spun a porn-free version of this love story as an all-audience crowd-pleaser, but instead, he opted to engage with what's shaping up to be a real pandemic, as porn increasingly infects the expectations men put on the opposite sex. Where Steve McQueen's "Shame" took the more obtuse art film approach to this sex-obsessed phenomenon, Gordon-Levitt weaves the topic into a broadly accessible romantic comedy, one that ultimately uses its in-your face style to sneak a few old-fashioned insights about how self-centered guys can learn to respect their partners.

Porn isn't the only culprit here, either, as the pic implicates everything from body-baring advertisements to hand-me-down machismo (Danza, perfectly cast as Jon's caveman dad, complements his onscreen son on his new "piece of ass"). Gordon-Levitt's script can be a bit on-the-nose at times, but that's an indulgence easily forgiven in a debut feature, and this ensemble winningly sells the movie's tricky tonal mix — none better than Julianne Moore, who plays an unexpected confidante Jon meets while attending night school, using her gift for nuance to spin a small part into the film's soul.

On the opposite extreme, guido culture takes a hit: Not since "The Sopranos" has Jersey's Italian-American contingent been so ruthlessly reduced — although this time, the whackings are all self-inflicted. While the pic's bridge-and-tunnel stereotypes may border on the cartoonish, in the view of many American males, Jon is living the dream.

That's the mindset Gordon-Levitt so effectively manages to correct over the course of Jon's partial awakening. The self-assured helmer shows genuine affection for his characters, balancing their openly satiric qualities with a disarmingly sincere human center. Meanwhile, the film's visual style complements its slick lensing with flashy cutting, choosing angles that critique cinema's tendency to objectify by calling attention to that very language — a strategy extended via carefully selected porn clips and Nathan Johnson's ironic club-music score.
Don Jon fist pumps its way to Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.41:1. Gordon-Levitt and his cinematographer Thomas Kloss give a kind of glossy look to the location work in Jersey and environs (some of the film was shot in Los Angeles). Colors are very nicely saturated throughout the film, with some of the outdoor footage popping quite nicely. The film has a warm golden ambience a lot of the time which intentionally contrasts with the kind of slightly smarmy characters being depicted. Don Jon's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is an uncommonly boisterous affair for this sort of dramedy. Some of this sonic energy comes from the film's smart use of source cues and general underscore, all of which utilize the surround channels quite effectively. Dialogue is very cleanly presented and there's some good immersion throughout the film courtesy of well-placed ambient environmental effects.

Special Features:
  • Making of Don Jon: has some decent behind the scenes footage, but is a pretty lightweight EPK.
  • Don Jon's Origin: features Gordon-Levitt discussing the genesis of the character and the project.
  • Joe's Hats!: is about Gordon-Levitt's multitasking on the film.
  • Objectified: deals with Jon's tendency to objectify those around him.
  • Themes and Variations: profiles composer Nathan Johnson.
  • HitRECord Shorts  
  • Theatrical Trailer 
Don Jon isn't a perfect film, but it's a damned enjoyable one. Highlighted by some smart writing and nicely vigorous performances, the film marks a major debut by Gordon-Levitt in his new guise as a so-called multi-tasker. The film ends up being just a bit too silly for its own good, but there's a refreshing honesty and heart in this very appealing film. The video and audio are top notch, and even without a glut of supplements, Don Jon is more than worth your time.
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MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 89 minutes
Distributed By: Relativity Media

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About Chris Rebholz

FlickDirect, Chris  Rebholz

When Chris was but a wee lad growing up in the slums of suburban New Jersey, he happened to rent a little movie called Tron. Then his head exploded. It was at the moment that he realized that he loved movies, and since then Chris has made it a habit of renting movies, going to the movies, discussing his favorite movies, and anything else in between when it comes to that genre. Read more reviews and content by .

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