DON JUAN DeMARCO, played by Johnny Depp, tells his psychiatrist (Marlon Brando) “There are only four 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.”
Brando’s shrink is about to retire, but seeks to go out on a winner if he can properly diagnose, treat and release a young patient (Depp) he saved from a suicide attempt. ‘John Arnold DeMarco’ dresses in a cape and outfit resembling Zorro, affects a Spanish accent and insists he’s the Great Lover from romantic lore, spinning stories of his passion-dedicated life and many amorous conquests, including time in a harem. Intrigued, charmed, seduced and convinced by his case, the psychiatrist reviews his own value set and the dormant stage of his marriage (Faye Dunaway gets the wife role).
Director Jeremy Leven wrote the script of this 1995 romantic comedy-drama off his own short story as well as lifting ‘Don Juan’ material from Lord Byron’s satiric poem. It’s a mildly amusing trifle that soon wears out its one-joke fabrication bit and depends mostly on the star power of the leads. Depp’s good, with his best scenes near the end when he drops the accent business and pleads straight to the medical team deciding his near-term fate. *
Brando, 70 and waddling under what looks like 350 ice-cream-addicted pounds doesn’t indulge in overmuch character-fiddling, he even speaks as clearly as he’d done in years. He seemed to rally here after his scorned job in the 1992 flop Christopher Columbus: The Discovery but his next was the horror disaster The Island Of Dr. Moreau which he (and Val Kilmer) deliberately helped sabotage. Dunaway, 53, isn’t given much to do; she puts in professional time (she wanted the lackluster part mainly just to work with Brando).
The production cost tagged $25,000,000, reviews were mixed, it grossed $69,000,000 to come in at #59 for the year. Bryan Adams’ song “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” was Oscar-nominated.
With Bob Dishy, Selena (her only movie role: she was murdered a week before it was released), Géraldine Pailhas, Rachel Ticotin, Frank Ruz, Talisa Soto, Richard C. Sarafian. Music by Michael Kamen. 97 minutes.
“There are those that do not believe that a single soul born in heaven can split into twin spirits and shoot like falling stars to earth where over oceans and continents their magnetic forces will finally unite them back into one. But, how else to explain love at first sight?”
* If Don Juan’s “work” was never done, neither was Byron’s, as the epic picaresque poem, 555 completed pages worth, started in 1818, took five years to write in 17 cantos, the last unfinished at the time of his death in Greece at 36. Though his exit, from sepsis and fever, was miserable, it was also, in support of the Greek fight against the Ottomans, suitably romantic, something legions of lesser Don Juans have lionized as part and parcel of the Byronic Hero.