[Join your host, John Holliday, in the review column "A Movie A Week" as he shares his spoiler-free thoughts on our collection of DVD / Blu-ray titles.]
Give this movie a chance. I never really had another option for an opening line for this review because I myself had been reluctant for years and I'm so glad I gave in. The lack of any real enthusiasm from everyday movie lovers gave me the impression that this would just be another of Johnny Depp's mediocre 90's movies that came out between his real hits. The totally uninspired poster art also gave the feeling of a thoughtless romance that seemed (for whatever reason) a pet project for the two stars. That's exactly why you should never judge a book by it's cover or a movie by it's poster art.
Don Juan DeMarco, the titular character played by Johnny Depp, is a young man living in the modern era while believing to be the world's greatest lover, the legendary Don Juan. Parading through New York in full Zorro-like costume (complete with mask), we quickly realize that Don Juan has no doubt in his mind that he is who he claims to be. Despite the getup, he easily steals away a woman while she waits on her date, further giving credit to his assertion. Though he takes apathetic credit for making love to over 1,000 women, the only one that mattered to him has rejected him and now, after his farewell conquest, he has decided to end his life.
Psychiatrist Dr. Mickler (Marlon Brando), only ten days from retirement, finds Don Juan's case to be interesting and decides to make it his swan song. Mickler hears out DeMarco's entire absurd life story, or at least the one his patient chooses to believe, and even though inconsistincies in his accent and narrative are pointed out, he has an answer for every accusation. Further complicating matters is the fact that DeMarco's experiences have inspired a spark of youth in Mickler's own love life. No matter how fascinating the escapades may be, Don Juan is at the mental hospital to be brought back to reality. Whether or not he's already there remains to be seen.
Don Juan DeMarco is in every way the middle brother between 'Big Fish' and Jimmy Stewart's 'Harvey'. Though having most of the best elements of both, it doesn't have anything of it's own to render it's counterparts inferior. But the only reason it doesn't improve on the charm of Harvey or the fairy tale of Big Fish is because they were perfect in the first place. While neither of those movies could ever be remade (successfully), Don Juan DeMarco is the best companion piece we could ever hope for. If another fable were to come along that was half as captivating, I would welcome it with open arms.
Johnny Depp, like Stewart in Harvey, is the only person who could have played his character. Anyone else would have gone overboard while he plays suave and subdued. It was a smart choice that he accepted the role on the condition that Brando act opposite him. Depp's admiration for Brando and Brando's respect for Depp are prevalent and consistent with their parts. At first, Dr. Mickler seems tired and ready for retriement, but as the ostensible fabrication progresses, he is given new life in much the same way as his patient has in his own fictional autobiography. When it comes down to whether or not the myth is real, who's to decide? That's why I give Don Juan DeMarco:
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