Blu-ray Review: Don Jon

STUDIO: Fox | DIRECTOR: Joseph Gordon-Levitt | CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/31/2013 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99
BONUSES: HitRECord Shorts, featurettes
SPECS: R | 90 min. | Comedy romance drama | 2.40:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

A young man’s coming of age—not in terms of having sex and falling in love, but rather of learning about the differences between sex and love—is the theme of the comedy-drama Don Jon, starring, written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper), who graduates from lots of acting, to writing and directing short films, to helming his first feature-length effort.

“Don” Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt) is a kind of Saturday Night Fever Tony Manero type gone Jersey—he’s a big hit with the ladies at the local clubs, a serious iron-pumper at the gym, a trusted buddy when he’s out with his crew, and a dedicated family man who dines with his parents (Taxi‘s Tony Danza and The Joneses‘s Glenne Headly) weekly and accompanies them to church every Sunday. While there, he even sits in the confession booth to admit to all his practicing of pre-marital sex…and masturbation. LOTS of masturbation, as Jon has a real jones for online porn—even with his successful sex life.

Don Jon movie scene

Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt do it in Don Jon.

Everything almost changes when he meets Barbara (Scarlet Johansson, Hitchcock), a gorgeous, gum-snapping Jersey gal who might just be the one, even though she makes Jon hold out for the big night, can come off as bossy, and has a ridiculous passion for lovey-dovey chick flicks, the kind that Jon doesn’t get himself off to. And so, after bedding Barbara, he sneaks off to his trusty laptop and really responds to the fantastical world of internet porn (as he does after all his flesh-and-blood conquests). This doesn’t sit too well with Barbara…

As problems with Barbara quickly intensify, Jon gets involved with older woman Esther (Julianne Moore,The Big Lebowski), whom he meets at a nighttime college course he is taking (at Barbara’s insistence). Though a bit flakey, Esther is a far more grounded woman then Barbara. She introduces Jon to a world of sex with love via some vintage Seventies erotica, not to mention some firsthand experience of genuinely emotional real-life lovemaking. Love—and sex—is in the air!

A fine first film by the obviously talented Gordon-Levitt (who here sports a seriously buffed physique), Don Jon is a straight-forward three-act piece that isn’t as startling or fresh as much as it breezy, entertaining and likeable. The cast is solid all-around and the story doesn’t get sidetracked by any secondary plotlines or characters. Jon’s “coming of age” in the film’s final third is a bit too pat and easy, but it isn’t so jarring as to disappoint or feel like a cheat. Gordon-Levitt’s Jon and those around him are too clearly drawn and identifiable to make the abruptness of the ending anything less than satisfying.

Don Jon’s video and audio quality are excellent in the film’s Blu-ray incarnation, with special kudos going out to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. Filled with all manner of musical cues—a score, indie rock-ish guitar music, dance tracks—there was a strong possibility that the dialogue would get buried in the mix, but that’s not the case. And the surround sound is enveloping without being overwhelming, with a good use of sound to enhance the film’s Jersey environment (meaning cars revving, glassware tinkling, sneakered feet shuffling, and so on).

The supplemental package consists primarily of five featurettes that total about 30 minutes. Gordon-Levitt is the primary contributor here—one featurette, Joe’s Hats!, focuses on his jobs as writer, director and star—though we also hear from cinematographer Thomas Kloss, production designer Meghan Rogers, costume designer Cindy Coburn and composer Nathan John. The film’s stars pop up in the featurette Objectified, which finds them discussing Don Jon’s themes of sexual and romantic objectification. All the featurettes are informative, but are obviously cut from the same cloth and maintain a consistently restrained (and repetitive) feel.

Another supplemental piece, HitRECord Shorts, offers a quintet of internet shorts compiled by Gordon-Levitt from a group of video submissions wherein people talk about their favorite things, their desires and their plans for attaining happiness.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.