Don Juan DeMarco – 4 Stars (Excellent)
“Don Juan DeMarco” is a neat, compact, engrossing film that not only is fantastic entertainment but also tests your sense of reality. Somehow, sadly, it got lost in its limited exposure and lack of commercial success to be all but forgotten as a great moviemaking effort.
I am here to resurrect it and sing the praises of Johnny Depp as Don Juan DeMarco.
Released in 1995 as an independent film, Don Juan DeMarco is the story of John R. DeMarco, a man who believes he is Don Juan, the greatest lover in the world. Clad in a loose cloak with a mask, he arrives in New York in search of his lost love, Dona Ana (Geraldine Pailhas).
Distraught at not finding her, he attempts to commit suicide from atop a billboard, only to be talked down by the soon retiring psychiatrist Dr. Jack Mickler (Marlon Brando). Dr. Mickler has exactly 10 days to bring DeMaco back to reality or he will likely never get out of the psychiatric hospital where he is being held for evaluation.
Dr. Mickler is required to give DeMarco meds immediately but chooses not to do so. DeMarco’s impact on Dr. Mickler and the staff is immediately apparent, and he is so convincing as Don Juan that even Dr. Mickler is affected as he reevaluates his own life and marriage to his wife Marilyn (Faye Dunaway).
This movie is too good to give away what happens next.
The transformation of people around Don Juan DeMarco is remarkable. He is intoxicating and uplifting. There is a reason why Johnny Depp is credited with being one of the most versatile actors in the film business, and why the films featuring him have grossed more than $4.7 billion worldwide.
Director Jeremy Leven also wrote the script, which included some work by Lord Byron in his legendary poem “Don Juan”. Dozens of Hollywood directors have tried to both direct and write a film but few have achieved as well as Leven. He joins a very short list that includes Tim McCanlies in “Secondhand Lions” and Brian De Palma in “Dressed to Kill”.
To understand the power of the script, listen to the dialog of Don Juan DeMarco talking about women:
“There are only 4 questions of value in life, Don Octavio. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love.”
“By seeing beyond what is visible to the eye. Now there are those, of course, who do not share my perceptions, it is true. When I say that all my women are dazzling beauties, they object. The nose of this one is too large; the hips of another, they are too wide; perhaps the breasts of a third, they are too small.
“But I see these women for how they truly are . . . glorious, radiant, spectacular, and perfect . . . because I am not limited by my eyesight. Women react to me in the way they do, Don Octavio, because they sense that I search out the beauty that lies within until it overwhelms everything else. And then they cannot avoid their desire, to release that beauty and envelop me in it.”
“Have you never met a woman who inspires you to love? Until your every sense is filled with her? You inhale her. You taste her. You see your unborn children in her eyes and know that your heart has at last found a home. Your life begins with her, and without her it must surely end.”
I was thinking, how did I miss this dialog when I was 20 years old and dating? No wonder hindsight and maturity are so valuable in our relationships.
Johnny Depp is an exceptional actor who shows his talent in Don Juan DeMarco. Depp is a 3-time Best Actor Academy Award nominee for his work in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, “Finding Neverland” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. He did win the Best Actor Golden Globe for Sweeney Todd.
Don Juan DeMarco had a strong musical score by Michael Kamen, and the song “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Grammy.
Unfortunately, Don Juan DeMarco cost $25 million to produce and generated $68 million worldwide. The lack of awards and lack of bigger profit production meant less press and less exposure for the film, reducing its impact.
I thought Don Juan DeMarco and Johnny Depp were both smashingly good and deserved better. I would see this film again in a heartbeat.