Two Movie Reviews: “Don Jon” and “Rush”

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“Don Jon” and “Rush” — Two film reviews by Gary Chew

I had to conjure up a new word in order to write this review of the new films, “Don Jon” and “Rush” — you’ll be glad to know the second title, by the way, is not a biopic about a disturbed radio talk-show host. The word necessary to convey the appropriate sense for what “Don Jon” and “Rush” are about follows with a seven-syllable utterance to be spelled “testosteronosity.”

Surely either of these films might win the Oscar for Most Testosterone in a 2013 movie. Moreover, “Rush,” Ron Howard’s latest piece, could win the Oscar for Loudest Movie of the year. More on that later.

movies-don-jon-still-12Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his debut as a film director with “Don Jon.” Gordon-Levitt is talented. I especially liked him in “500 Days of Summer.” He was a completely different character from the lead he takes in “Don Jon,” as the toughest dude in town who scores heavily in the female department. He and his buds, who aren’t criminals at all, could teach the entire Soprano family a thing or two — even about East Coast accents.

Jon is heavily into online porn despite being big with the ladies, and a practicing Catholic. He often goes to Mass with his parents and sister, always making stops at the confession booth. There he reports his sins.

His porn-watching addiction becomes problematic after he and Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, become involved. She learns of his penchant for pornography after sneaking a peek at his computer to see where it’s “traveled.” The sexiest thing about Ms. Johansson is her voice. That means that the sound of her speech is really sexy as one sees her in fine form with a authentic-sounding Jersey accent — leading Jon about, and his not even knowing he’s being led.

Meanwhile, Jon meets an older, single woman at the community college he’s attending. Julianne Moore does something that’s typical for her in the role — and quite well, thank you. Her character is Esther. She’s weeping outside a classroom when Jon first sees her. An easy inference to make is that Esther’s open display of feeling is something that will recur. And so it does.

Jon has left the family nest now but often comes home for dinner, seeing his parents and younger sister. Tony Danza and Glenne Headley are Mom and Dad. Sacramento native Brie Larson is sister Monica who, as it turns out, having hardly a line in the movie and often ignored by other family members, might be the most perceptive person at the dinner table — or in the movie.

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Tony Danza and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Don Jon.”

Gordon-Levitt’s film is replete with pool-hall coinages and anatomical guy stuff that’s really not all that fit to print; both push “Don Jon” quite close to the soft-porn aisle, actually. However, this “Don Jon” (with a sounding “J”) should prove chuckleful for males in several scenes, but might gross out souls with more tender sensibilities.

The men in the film are depicted as having unwholesome attitudes about how they appreciate women, so Gordon-Levitt has put a twist to the story to save some face on that circumstance. His “walk back” doesn’t quite make bail, but a good time should be had for most who see “Don Jon,” even though it’s devoid of erotica — flying in the face of its theme.

Meanwhile, over on the Formula One racetrack, a semi-accurate account is presented of the 1976 vehicular standoff between professional race drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda (real people). Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl play the roles of wealthy, 20-something, narcissistic men who have chosen their careers more out of avoiding a real job than anything else. Hunt is the rule breaker and a swaggering womanizer; Lauda, the perfectionist percentage player in need of a personality.

Their appended ladies in the film are, respectively, Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara. I had flashes of “Grand Prix” (1966) with James Garner and Yves Montand, as well as “Winning” (1969) with Paul Newman and Robert Wagner. Women were in the “back seat” of those films’ narratives, too.

Visually, Ron Howard brings “Rush” off in an amazing display of zipping racetrack scenes and close-ups of what goes on within the cockpit of a hurtling Ferrari, but he seems to be working at giving his audience an earache. All of it, Ron … way too loud. And Hans Zimmer’s music, so repetitive, needs to play at fewer decibels when actors speak their lines, especially those with European accents. I failed all my lip-reading classes.

But not to worry, “Rush” is still bracing entertainment and shines a good light on competitors who must respect one another even if it’s due only to their will to win.

Yes, a toast to testosteronosity! What a double feature these movies would make.

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