Don Juan Demarco

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"I must report that the last patient I ever treated- the great lover, Don Juan DeMarco- suffered from a romanticism which was completely incurable. And, even worse, contagious."

Don Juan Demarco is a 1995 American romantic comedy/drama. The eponymous character, 21-year-old John R. DeMarco (Johnny Depp) is a charming young man who customarily dresses in a long cape and domino mask, and introduces himself as the legendary seducer Don Juan. Following a thwarted suicide attempt (prompted by a rejection from "the only (woman) who has ever mattered"), he's sent to a mental institution for treatment. A sympathetic psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Mickler (Marlon Brando) takes his case, and is given ten days to cure John of his delusions before his own retirement. But their analytical sessions have an unexpected effect; John's over-the-top romanticism and appealing (if wildly improbable) tales of sexual conquest affect his would-be healer more than himself. Dr. Mickler is inspired to spice up his marriage to still-beautiful Marilyn (Faye Dunaway), whilst developing serious doubts whether John/ Don Juan should be 'cured' at all. "(I need) to get into this world that he’s in, and it’s a wonderful world."

The movie is based on director/screenwriter Jeremy Leven's short story 'Don Juan DeMarco And The Centerfold', and Lord Byron's narrative poem Don Juan.

Tropes used in Don Juan Demarco include:

  • Award Bait Song: Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman written by Bryan Adams, Michael Kamen and Robert Lange, performed by Mr. Adams. It occupied the number-one ranking for five weeks, on the 'Billboard Hot 100' in the United States (making it the team's third #1 song.) HYERLAW went on to earn them their second Oscar nomination, though it lost to Colors Of The Wind.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: There's a touching little scene where, after persuading John to take medication, Dr. Mickler keeps a protective watch over his peacefully sleeping patient.
  • Bedlam House: Averted. The mental institution where Dr. Mickler works is a clean & decent place, and the staff are invariably nice to 'Don Juan' (rather more than their by-the-book supervisor likes.)
  • Berserk Button: John doesn't like anyone to mention that his Mom cheated on his Dad. Unless it's himself who's doing the mentioning.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: American born-and-raised John speaks with a Spanish accent (Castilian, according to Mickler) in imitation of his role model. When the good doctor is talking John down from the roof, he affects the same accent to sound more persuasive. But Mickler drops it once their therapy sessions begin.
  • Byronic Hero: Averted. Ironically, Byron's version of Don Juan is far too naïve and well-meaning to fit the adjective.
  • The Cameo: Popular Mexican-American singer Selena has a brief appearance, performing in a hotel lounge. Tragically, this was her first and last movie cameo- she was murdered by her fanclub's president who was stealing money from her, one week before the movie's release date.
  • Character Filibuster: John gets a couple of these, expounding on what it takes to be the World's Greatest Lover (it's very much to Depp's acting credit that he manages to deliver these convincingly.) Mickler does a more tongue-in-cheek one, complete with a playful fake accent, about being the World's Greatest Psychiatrist.
  • The Caretaker: What started out as a doctor/patient relationship evolves into a father/son one; Dr. Mickler goes well out of his way to save John from being committed.
  • The Charmer: John is very much this, with or without the Don Juan accouterments.
  • Chick Flick: He may be a one-night-stander, but this is Byron's hopeless-romantic Don Juan, not Mozart's Manipulative Bastard. Lots of gals can appreciate John's almost worshipful method of wooing:

JOHN: "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, the breasts of a third are too small. But I see these women for how they truly are; glorious, radiant... perfect. Because I am not limited by my eyesight. Women react to me the way that they do because they sense that I search out the beauty that dwells within them, until it overwhelms everything else. And they cannot avoid their desire, to release that beauty and envelop me in it."

  • Cloudcuckoolander: John... or is he? Towards the end, there's indications his 'delusions' may be closer to reality than suspected. It seems he and the Micklers make a successful journey into his "wonderful world."
  • Cool Mask: John's most treasured accessory. He claims he started wearing it in response to his father's untimely death. And it doesn't exactly make him hideous.
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: The analyst was affected more than the patient, albeit in a positive way.
  • Daydream Believer: John, right from the start. The Micklers, by the end.
  • Disappeared Dad: Both the 'real' and 'imaginary' accounts of John's background agree that John's father was killed, well before John was old enough to cope with such a loss. Dr. Mickler gradually takes over that role in John's life.
  • Disguised in Drag: The Sultana disguises John (most fetchingly!) in loose-fitting harem costumes, to prevent the Sultan from discovering her new personal attendant is an entirely 'unaltered' male. (One could suspect that the script-writers invented this to showcase Depp's talent for female impersonation, but it's actually lifted from Lord Byron's poem.)
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Averted. Baba, the eunuch assigned to watch over John in the Sultan's palace, is trustworthy and considerate (though, for fairly obvious reasons, he really doesn't want to hear about John's enjoyable liaisons with the Sultana.)
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Nicely played with: John's charms prove to be a distraction for the female staff, so a male orderly is assigned to him. They seem to get along as well, though, and in a few days' time the guy quits his job and moves to Spain in order to study flamenco dancing.
  • Fantastic Romance: John has great talent for telling these.
  • Flower Motifs: These are used several times. When Dr. Mickler is talking John down from the roof, he introduces himself as "Don Octavio de Florez." Coming to work after a night of romance, Dr. Mickler cheerfully plucks tulips from the front of the building and hands them out to the staff. When Mickler first proposes they go to "the Island of Eros", rather than their planned trip to the (antique) Pyramids, Marilyn is reluctant to take such a step: "I like it here, I like my garden." But the Island proves to have a far greater abundance of blooms: "It was like the Garden (of Eden) before the fall." A probable clue to the symbolism is this VO reverie near the beginning:

JOHN: "Every true lover knows that the moment of greatest satisfaction comes when ecstasy is long over. And he beholds before him the flower which has blossomed beneath his touch."

JOHN: "There are only four questions of value in life... 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."

  • Interrupted Suicide: John and Dr. Mickler's way of 'meeting cute'.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Brando was well past his prime in this movie- this was even Lampshaded when one of the supporting characters commented on his weight gain. Even so, it's no stretch to believe he and his Mrs. can still stoke each other's furnaces.
  • Kidanova: In the backstory he told to Mickler, John recognized his vocation very early in life.
  • Ladykiller in Love: John's condition throughout the film.
  • Latin Lover: Well, duh.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Obviously.
  • Longing for Fictionland: When making his 'true' statement to the Judge, John explained that reading Lord Byron's Don Juan book was what inspired him to create his imaginary persona.
  • Love Before First Sight: What motivates John's suicide attempt.
  • Love Hurts: What prompted John's suicide attempt.
  • Magic Realism: The movies qualifies for this genre since, after John is released, he and the Micklers take a plane ride to John's 'imagined' island.
  • Made a Slave: According to one of his yarns, John was sold into slavery and spent two years in the 'service' of lusty Sultana Gulbeyaz. Not that he seemed to've minded much. It probably helped that she kept him hidden in the Sultan's harem of 1,500 young women (apparently she had no problem with sharing.)
  • Mr. Fanservice: To the max! This is Johnny Depp at his poster-boy best. Watching him in his various flattering costumes is like savoring a assortment of very good chocolates.
  • The Munchausen: John, to such a degree it almost gets him committed.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Occurs during the Harem story. John initially resists Sultana Gulbeyaz's overtures, and for a few seconds she seems prepared to use violent means (a knife at his throat) to force his cooperation. But then she opts to try tactile persuasion instead (it works.)
  • Ominous Opera Cape: Subverted. Nobody finds John's cape frightening; on him it looks more dashing than sinister.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Enacted when John's father is fatally wounded in a sword duel and dies in the arms of John's mother.
  • Reality Warper: The movie's closing sequence suggests the 'wonderful world' of John's delusions has somehow become real. Did that happen because he and/or the Micklers wanted it badly enough?
  • Scenery Porn: Every story John tells to Mickler takes place in a strikingly beautiful locale; a picturesque Mexican village, a richly adorned Arabian Nights palace, an idyllic tropical island. (And Johnny himself provides lots of Godiva-quality eye candy.)
  • Sex Slave: See entry under Made a Slave.
  • The Shrink: Dr. Mickler is Type 3. He even knows when to let well enough alone.
  • So Happy Together: John and Doña Ana (in his account), until he told her something he should've kept to himself (see The Funny Entry.)
  • Spurned Into Suicide: What sets the plot in motion.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Chelsea Stokeler takes John for this (she is correct about the crush part.)
  • Sword Fight: According to John, this is how his father died. According to John's grandmother, it was a car crash.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: See entry under Disguised in Drag.
  • You Say Tomato: John has a funny back-and-forth exchange with his first therapist, over John's pronunciation of 'villa.'