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Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke
Writing Credits:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt

There's more to life than a happy ending.

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a handsome, good old-fashioned guy known as Don Jon for his ability to bed beautiful women at will. But ironically, even the finest fling doesn't compare to the bliss Jon finds alone-watching porn on his computer. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a gorgeous, good old-fashioned girl raised on romantic movies, and she's determined to find her Prince Charming. Wrestling with expectations of the opposite sex, Jon and Barbara struggle against false fantasies to find true intimacy in this unexpected comedy written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Box Office:
$6 million.
Opening Weekend
$8.677 million on 2422 screens.
Domestic Gross
$24.475 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 12/31/2013

• “Making of Don Jon” Featurette
• “Don Jon’s Origin” Featurette
• “Joe’s Hats!” Featurette
• “Objectified” Featurette
• “Themes and Variations” Featurette
• “HitRECord Shorts”
• Trailer
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Don Jon [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 9, 2014)

Has anyone ever met an actor who didn’t want to direct? I doubt it, and that brings us to our newest inductee in the thespian-turned-auteur ranks: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. With 2013’s Don Jon, Gordon-Levitt turns into triple threat, as he acts, directs and writes the 21st century update on the Don Juan legend.

Jon Martello (Gordon-Levitt) lives a life straight out of Jersey Shore, as his existence seems to revolve around working out and romancing the ladies. In the latter domain, he does so well that his friends dub him “Don Jon”. When Jon doesn’t have a babe in the sack, he helps himself to ample servings of Internet porn – and this negatively impacts his romantic dalliances, as none of the women he meets live up to the expectations he gets from all those fantasy hotties.

This lifestyle hits a snag when Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a gorgeous woman who comes with her own media-based biases. Raised on Hollywood romances, Barbara expects love to match the fairy tales she sees in movies. Porn butts heads with chick flicks, as Jon and Barbara try to accommodate their various interpretations of “perfect love” and make a relationship work.

It’d be easy to look at Don Jon as a simple vanity project. Gordon-Levitt has assumed an increasingly high profile over recent years – he got put into the theoretical position to become the next Batman after 2012’s Dark Knight Rises, for God’s sake – so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see all this go to his head.

Happily, it doesn’t appear that this affected Gordon-Levitt, as he produces a fairly likeable and unassuming project with Don Jon. Sure, he attempts to view a picture larger than the simple rom-com it could’ve been, mainly through his observations on media and how different elements affect perceptions and relationships. We’re meant to see how both men and women live with their fantasies of romance, albeit interpretations that come from wildly different perspectives, as we don’t find much overlap between Jon’s hardcore porn and Barbara’s chick flicks.

When Don Jon focuses on the male side of the coin, it does well for itself – really well, as a matter of fact. Gordon-Levitt provides a completely honest depiction of the male “relationship” with porn and hits many nails on their heads. Most movies gussy up such viewpoints, but that doesn’t happen here; Gordon-Levitt truly gets through to the reality.

When Don Jon attempts to investigate the female POV, however, it does less well. The film spends much less time with Barbara’s side of things, and that does make sense, as the story wants to tell Jon’s journey. However, this also means Gordon-Levitt barely touches on the female relationship with romantic fantasies/chick flicks, so we end up with lop-sided viewpoints. I’d like it better if the movie had balanced the two sides a bit better and dug into the female fascination with Hollywood fantasy more than it does.

When Don Jon doesn’t try too hard to make its points, it becomes an entertaining and involving character piece – and one that takes some surprising paths. Midway through the story, Julianne Moore pops up as a classmate of Jon’s, and their relationship throws twists into the tale; I don’t want to offer spoilers, but let’s just say that the Jon/Barbara side goes in a different direction than expected once Moore enters the picture. Not all of these elements seem totally believable, but they give us some interesting story components and allow the movie to become something more creative than it otherwise might’ve been.

Throughout all this, Gordon-Levitt delivers surprisingly understated and self-assured work as writer and director. I suspect he may’ve been tempted to make a Big Statement right out of the box, and again, those thematic elements occasionally threaten to turn the movie into move of a treatise on media than a real movie.

However, Don Jon manages to stay on the right side of that line, so it never risks losing the viewer. The characters come across as reasonably believable and likable – even Jon’s straight-out-of-Saturday Night Fever parents – and the story follows a natural progression. All of this adds up to a well-executed and enjoyable character piece that aptly straddles comedy and drama.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Don Jon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a nice visual presentation.

From start to finish, sharpness looked strong. Only the slightest hint of softness affected wide shots, and those examples occurred too infrequently to cause obvious distractions. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. I also failed to detect any source flaws.

In terms of colors, the movie featured a fairly natural palette, and across the board, the hues looked positive. They showed nice clarity and breadth and came out well. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. I thought the movie consistently looked fine.

I felt that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Don Jon was good but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most character pieces, the movie featured a limited soundfield that favored the forward channels. It showed nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides.

Panning was decent, and the surrounds usually kicked in basic reinforcement. A few scenes opened up better, though, like at clubs or on streets. However, most of the movie stayed with limited imaging.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music was perfectly fine, as the score and songs showed positive dimensionality. This track was good enough for a “B-“ but didn’t particularly impress.

A few minor extras fill out the disc. Making of Don Jon runs six minutes, 45 seconds and includes notes from writer/director/actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, production designer Meghan C. Rogers, cinematographer Thomas Kloss, and costume designer Leah Katznelson. “Making” looks at production design, cinematography, and costumes. The show doesn’t last long, but it comes with a good collection of notes, so it’s better than expected.

During the seven-minute, 20-second Don Jon’s Origin, we hear from Gordon-Levitt, as he talks about inspirations for the film, what led him to make it, and other elements of its path to the screen. I like that he seems self-aware in terms of the potential vanity side of things, and he gives us a nice overview on how he got the flick into production.

Next comes the Joe’s Hats! featurette. It occupies four minutes, 50 seconds with info from Gordon-Levitt, as he discusses juggling the different jobs he carried on the production. He also gets into a few other areas like rehearsals and stylistic choices. Once again, Gordon-Levitt proves to be informative and likable.

Objectified takes up five minutes, seven seconds with comments from Gordon-Levitt and actors Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johansson, and Tony Danza. The piece looks at the portrayal of sexuality in media and how it affects our relationships/lives. That topic fits the movie’s themes and brings us a decent package of opinions.

Under Themes and Variations, we get a five-minute, 39-second piece with Gordon-Levitt and composer Nathan Johnson. They talk about the songs and score found in the film. We receive a nice take on the appropriate topics.

Finally, HitRECord Shorts offers give brief pieces. A series of webisodes, these fill a total of 13 minutes, nine seconds and provide comments from Gordon-Levitt. Rather than promote the film directly, these address people’s attachment to their “favorite things”. A few mildly interesting thoughts emerge, but this collection usually doesn’t go much of anywhere.

The disc opens with ads for Out of the Furnace, The Family and Paranoia. We also get Sneak Peeks at Robocop, Runner Runner and The Americans Season One as well as the trailer for Don Jon.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Don Jon. It includes some previews but lacks any other extras.

While I can’t say Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut hits the ball out of the park, Don Jon provides a more than satisfactory film. It occasionally bogs down in its themes but it usually delivers a realistic and satisfying character piece. The Blu-ray offers good picture and audio along with a mix of useful featurettes. Color me impressed, and I look forward to further work from Gordon-Levitt.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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