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Don Juan DeMarco

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Don Juan DeMarco

Starring: Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando
Director: Jeremy Leven
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: April 1995
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Faye Dunaway, Geraldine Pailhas, Bob Dishy, Rachel Ticotin, Talisa Soto, Richard Sarafian, Tresa Hughes

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

You've had a hard day, and the circuits in your brain have gone on overload. You know you should see the latest Swedish film since it is full of angst and deep hidden meanings, but you got so depressed after the last message movie you saw that you couldn't sleep afterwards. You are too busy to see, much less smell the daisies. Romance? Well, forget it. You figure romance these days only comes in cheap novels next to the tabloids at the supermarket.

Does any of this ring true for you? Then, I have a light hearted, fairy tale of a romance for you. It is called DON JUAN DEMARCO. There is not much in it, but what there is is a delight and will reaffirm your belief in life and especially in romance.

DON JUAN DEMARCO asks the question what is reality and why do you care. Is reality a bunch of messy old facts or can you adopt a wonderful fantasy and make it your reality through force of will? Is a firmly and completely believed fantasy more valid than mere facts?

DON JUAN DEMARCO (Johnny Depp) is the world's greatest lover. By the age of 21, he has made love to over 1,500 women, but he says he has seduced none of them. He always wears a large hat, a mask, and clothes that his Grandmother says makes him look like Zorro. His name is Italian, he speaks with a Castilian accent, he claims to have come from Mexico, and he is lives in the US.

Nobody can sweet talk women like he can. His handholding scene is the most erotic I have ever seen excepting only for the one in THE AGE OF INNOCENCE. When his one true love asks him on the beach on the Island of Eros how many lovers he has had before her, he feels he must tell her the truth. He says, "1502 including you". After she then leaves him forever, he comments "I think she was expecting a lessor number".

After she ditches him, he decides his life is not worth living since he can only love her, and he decides to commit suicide. On the way to kill himself, he drops by the Hotel Seville and first makes love to just one more stranger. He is saved from his death by a local psychologist, Dr. Jack Mickler (Marlon Brando). Dr. Mickler agrees to treat him without medication if Don Juan will tell the doctor his story.

As the mesmerizing story unfolds, Dr. Mickler becomes a believer. Moreover, it begins to work a spell on him and starts to rekindle his love life with his wife of thirty years (Faye Dunaway). Don Juan's life is fascinating. He was sexual precocious from a small baby. Girls lined up to pay to kiss him when he was an adolescent. By the time, he reached sixteen, well, let's just say that many adventures awaited him.

There is a lot to recommend this delightful bit of fluff, but let me get the bad news out of the way first. I am sorry to report that the great Marlon Brando has been kidnapped! In his place, they have a much larger, quite mediocre, and very boring actor. Although he does look like Brando, he is clearly someone else. The great Brando owned every scene he play in. Even when he overacted, he always commanded attention. This clown makes you look at your watch every time the camera is on him. Faye Dunaway tries to mimic his stoicism and comes close. Their non-performances were able to knock my rating down a peg or two.

There is a lot wonderful about DON JUAN DEMARCO, but at the top is the marvelous performance by Johnny Depp. The words flow from his lips like butter. His screen presence was completely convincing. There was no doubt in my mind that he was DON JUAN DEMARCO.

The script by Jeremy Leven is worthy of the Brothers Grimm. The cinematography by Ralf D. Bode and the set decoration of Mexico is evocative of a romantic era of long ago. It has the feel of LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. The natural and richly colorful sets and the warm glow of the filming makes happiness flow through all of your veins. The costumes by Kirsten Everberg are full of romance and love. Finally, this was the first film in a while that has a musical score that I thought really adds to the ambiance.

The director, Jeremy Leven, understood the mood he wanted to create and did it quite well. Why he had to cast Brando and Dunaway, I will never fully understand. Yes, I guess, he must have figured that they would add to the box office take, but when he saw the dailies, why didn't he change his mind and get some other actors? Oh well, ...

DON JUAN DEMARCO runs a quick 1:32. It is correctly rate PG-13 for two very brief nude scenes, a bloody and deadly sword fight, and a subtle love making scene with all of their clothes on. Any kid older than 12 who is interested in romance would like it. I recommend it to you, and I award it ** 1/2. As I said earlier, it had the potential for a much higher rating.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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