Joseph Gordon-Levitt assumes the mantle of auteur as the writer, director, and star of Don Jon, a sometimes adult look at a young man’s realization of the differences between sex and love. For all the film’s glitzy spin on the bar pickup mentality and the way people use others to fulfill their own desires without considering the other guy, the young filmmaker doesn’t quite plumb the depths of his character’s epiphany to make for a truly memorable exploration of character. Still, it’s certainly a major accomplishment for Gordon-Levitt in pulling off this hat trick, but the film in the end seems a little too pat and predictable.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraVioletkeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/31/2013
Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a big hit with the ladies in his Jersey environs usually able to bag just about any babe he wants with the same kind of pick-up maneuvers and always ending in the same kind of dissatisfaction: making it with a real woman isn’t as edifying to him as fantasizing into his orgasms using internet porn. Luscious Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) seems like she might make him alter his ways and give up the porn, and she certainly earns the seal of approval from Jon’s mother (Glenne Headley) and father (Tony Danza). But familiarity with Barbara’s sexual techniques and her bossiness soon drive Jon back to his computer wondering if there isn’t anyone who can substitute for his addiction to porn.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s script has been molded much as he’s molded his body to fit the nature of the Jersey shore lug he’s impersonating: beefed up and callous: the kind of guy who hyperventilates at the nitwits on the road while driving, rates every girl he sees at the local bar and only deigning to go with 8’s or better (Barbara rates as a rare “dime”), and squirms out of bed after sex in order to get real satisfaction at the computer (to be fair, Jon explains why porn offers him a more satisfying experience, and it does make sense in his own world view). As director, Gordon-Levitt offers a flashy, glitzy showcase of quick cuts and smooth modulations between scenes (we get the same lead-up to his weekly church attendance, the porn clips flash by at a dizzying rate, his pick-up moves mimic each other, his confessions are routinely the same) as we get to know our protagonist and the things he considers the most important to his life: his crib, his ride, his boys, his girls, his church (notice no focus at all on his job as a bartender: obviously his work offers no contentment at all – quite telling but never dealt with in the film). We realize Barbara’s manipulations before he finally catches on (and it’s his sister played by Brie Larson who finally removes the blinders from his eyes in a key moment), but the alternative with Julianne Moore’s Esther seems more authory than realistic even if her involvement in his life (and the movie) moves the title character toward maturity when he begins to see the difference between having sex and making love.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has transformed himself into a guido supreme: from the buff physique and muscle shirts to the slicked down hair, the Jersey accent, and the macho mannerisms. His transformation late in the film is too movie-like and abrupt, but one can’t say that it isn’t effective for the story he’s telling. Scarlett Johansson has been equally transformed into a Jersey girl with her thick accent, incessant gum chewing, and skewed opinions on what “makes a man” (which doesn’t include cleaning his own apartment or not doing what he’s told). Julianne Moore seems bit flaky and desperate in the early going though she warms up and becomes the movie’s heart before the end (though the chemistry between the stars isn’t as palpable as between Gordon-Levitt and Johansson). Tony Danza is inspired casting as Jon’s father: the man Jon has used as his obvious role model in speech and behavior. Glenne Headley is a fine, fussy Jersey mom. Rob Brown (who gets one really good sit down scene with the star) and Jeremy Luke are quite believable as Jon’s bar “boys.”
The film has been transferred at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is superb throughout, and color is bold and richly saturated with accurate (very tan for the guys) flesh tones. Contrast has been wonderfully set and is consistent throughout. Black levels are only good, not great, but that’s the only caveat in an otherwise excellent video transfer. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does use the variations on the score by Nathan Johnson (which changes during each of the film’s three act structure) to give the entire soundstage a nice lift. Ambient sound effects, however, aren’t as adroitly used in the available front and rear channels. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and has been placed in the center channel. There are some nice LFE effects in certain scenes where bass is a vital component.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Making Don Jon (6:45, HD): the first of five brief EPK featurettes. This one features writer-director-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt who derides the “auteur” title and gives credit to his many collaborators on the project, particularly production designer Meghan Rogers, cinematographer Thomas Kloss, and costume designer Cindy Coburn who each speak about their work on the project.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Don Jon’s Origin (7:20, HD): Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks about the five-year journey to get his concept to the screen including the sporadic writing and the eventual casting of the film.
Joe’s Hats! (4:50, HD): Joseph Gordon-Levitt describes his three different jobs on the film and how unthinkable it would be for him to allow a script of his to be directed by anyone else.
Objectified (5:07, HD): the film’s four stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, and Scarlett Johansson discuss the film’s theme of objectification of individuals.
Themes and Variations (5:39, HD): composer Nathan Johnson discusses how he modified his musical themes to fit the film’s three-act structure.
HitRECord Shorts (13:09, HD): five internet shorts which were compiled by Joseph Gordon-Levitt featuring public video submissions from around the country about people’s desires and happinesses. They may also be watched separately.
Theatrical Trailer (2:26, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): Out of the Furnace, Paranoia, The Family.
DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in case.
Don Jon is a psychological dramedy that offers director-writer-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt a wonderful showcase for his talents in all three areas. The disc features an excellent Blu-ray transfer and some insights into the production process for fans of the star.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: