The Reel: Double feature: Feel the ‘Rush’ with ‘Don Jon’

Ben Conniff

Professional sports have always featured their fair share of playboys.

Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain is said to have had relations with over 20,000 women over the course of his career.

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski once came under fire for releasing photos of himself with a porn star.

In the case of Formula One race car driver, and subject of the new movie “Rush,” James Hunt (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth), the number of women he slept with is upwards of 5,000.

As the saying goes, “To the victor go the spoils.”

But that doesn’t mean you technically have to be a world champion to knock ‘em dead.

That’s clear in “Don Jon.”

In his screenwriting and directing debut, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a New Jersey Lothario known to his “boys” as Don Jon.

Despite his escapades with a seemingly incalculable amount of women whom he picks up at bars with his buddies, Jon can’t seem to shake his addiction to pornography.

In director Ron Howard’s “Rush,” Hunt can’t seem to shake his addiction to the limelight.

While similar in their hotheaded approaches to women, both characters find themselves in completely different narratives.

“Don Jon” is a confident, modern romantic comedy that subverts the standard cliches of its genre with edgy humor and honest, endearing performances.

“Rush” is a sports film that more than lives up to its title while chronicling the intense, true-life rivalry between Hunt and Austrian driver Niki Lauda on the 1970s Formula One racing circuit.

Above all else, these two films feature outstanding casts and superb editing.

Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore and Tony Danza lead a cast of honest, believable characters in “Don Jon.”

Gordon-Levitt assures his place among Hollywood’s elite players and budding filmmakers while Johansson remains convincing in a role tailor-made for her.

Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl both make strong, earnest turns in “Rush.”

As for the editing, Lauren Zuckerman’s work on “Don Jon” is akin to that of Jay Rabinowitz on “Requiem for A Dream.”

Zuckerman’s frenetic, music video- style editing of Don Jon’s vicious cycle of addiction desensitizes the audience in the same visual style of “Requiem”‘s graphic drug trips.

Hypnotic, attractive, fast-paced editing keeps these films from never experiencing a dull moment.

“Rush”’s most engaging sequences come on the racetrack, with cars zooming by at 200 miles per hour.

Editor Daniel Hanley makes the experience all the more intense with race footage juxtaposed against point-of-view shots that give the audience a sense for what it’s like behind the wheel of a Formula One race car.

“Don Jon” and “Rush” are neither boring, nor overbearing thanks to their editors.

But like their philandering leading men, these films are not without flaw.

“Don Jon” introduces a heavy-handed tonal shift in the last five to ten minutes that serves an important purpose in terms of character development but feels out of place.

Gordon-Levitt inserts a sermon about true love that feels awkward against the funny, breezy musings of the previous hour and twenty minutes.

While I found it to be the best sports film in years, “Rush” somehow lacks the “it” factor to make it an Oscar shoo-in.

Despite the similarities and differences, for better or worse, “Rush” and “Don Jon” are two wonderfully enjoyable films with egotistical, flawed leading men.