JUNO

The release of Juno on Region 2 DVD yesterday has sent more than one friend scrambling to relive the precious experience or else be taken in for the first time. One of them foolishly asked my opinion of the movie. I haven’t seen it since December but its cuteness is still pretty well seared in my memory, so here are a few thoughts to rouse discussion/incite wrath.

The most most concise but exhaustive description of Juno was made by Dennis Cozzalio who said:

The script reads like it’s meant to be reprinted whole hog under the IMDB “memorable quotes” tab (and a quick look there reveals that it practically has been.)

Bullseye! The only thing more devastating I could add is that Diablo Cody has a lot in common with Tarantino because all their characters sound like the same person, and the script dominates the actors. It sort of bullies them. I’m not against highly mannered dialogue, like in nearly every Coen Bros. movie; but in, say, the Big Lebowski the dialogue still sounds natural in each character’s mouth.

Ellen Page is the only one who manages to pull it off, and even though I kind of despise the movie I don’t begrudge her the Best Actress nom because any other actress would have been more annoying trying to pull it off. I also thought Jen Garner was good because it was the first time I’ve ever seen her actually play a character.

My friend states that Ellen Page is a true comic, which I agree with because her worst acting is when she tries to be serious for a moment and says “I don’t really know what kind of girl I am.” It was so awkward I actually couldn’t wait to return to the “honest to blog” dialogue!

Actually, now that I think about it, Jason Bateman’s interpretation of the punny jokes was quite subversive and revelatory of the screenplay’s true nature. When he says “Technically, that would be kicking it Old Testament” he interprets the line as a really terrible pun which forces everyone in the room to rightly groan. Whereas if it had been one of Juno’s lines on the phone to her girlfriend it would have been just another one in her stream of effortlessly “clever” quips.

But ironically, kicking it Old Testament was one of the lines I laughed out loud at, along with Juno’s line about the Chinese shooting babies out of t-shirt canons. But this just proves the only way the movie can be enjoyed: rehearsing “which jokes I liked.” The movie is like a rapid-fire comedian who figures if he can squeeze in three times as many jokes than his average competitor he’ll have a better chance of being as funny if not funnier than than them. But it’s the comedy version of the Michael Bay Principle: if an explosion is good then more must be better. Not that I’d mind a movie that had more jokes than most comedies as long as it wasn’t so smug and precious.

Dennis makes another point which I think is valid:

And speaking of music, it’s only severely disingenuous that a movie whose main character name-checks seminal punk rockers like Iggy and the Stooges and holds them up as a barometer of everyone else’s taste in music would eschew that very punk rock at every turn, instead making room on its soundtrack for Mott the Hoople, the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Sticking with You” and, to use my friend Kim Morgan’s word, twee singer-songwriters like Belle and Sebastian and the ubiquitous Kimya Dawson. (Maybe Juno’s director, Jason Reitman, surmised that Iggy might put off a goodly portion of the real-life Junos and their 18-to-25-year-old brothers and sisters who have spare change to spend on the soundtrack album.)

What to make of this disconnect? Would it have been redundant to hear the music incessantly name dropped? At least when Tarantino is subjecting you to a remedial book report about some slice of “obscure popular” culture, he has the decency to let you listen to the topic of discussion in the background. But now look what I’ve been led to do — defend Tarantino’s most annoying vice! (If I’m never heard from again it’s no doubt because I’ve ceased to exist, resulting from this commission of intellectual suicide.)

I hate not liking a popular movie since I style myself a champion of populist cinema but Juno feels disingenuous from start to finish. (Not unlike the ubiquitous description of “Diablo Cody” as the exotic-dancer-turned-author, even though the reason she became a stripper for a year was in order to write a book about it!) For a 2007 movie more honest about pregnancy, try all the other ones: Knocked Up; 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days; and Waitress.

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7 thoughts on “JUNO

  1. jeri says:

    I felt that way (about the dialog) for the first 20 minutes, but eased in to the rest of the movie. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already listened to all of the music they mentioned or played that I didn’t really have a disconnect because of it.

    What I like is the smart parents, the fact that Juno acts like a know-it-all but is vulnerable, the great dynamic of Bateman and Garner’s situation and characters, and the romance with Bleeker. Honestly, that last scene where he gets in the hospital bed with her was awesome to me.

    It wasn’t my all-time favorite movie of the year, but I thought it was a good little movie.

  2. Nobody says:

    This was the first movie in which I haven’t liked JK Simmons, maybe the character was was miscast. I thought the dad was played as rather clueless, especially in the scene where he thinks Juno is talking about him (“your D-A-D”) instead of Bleaker.

    I know the conclusion of that scene was supposed to be sweet and charming (telegraphed as all the scenes are) but I thought it just made him look oblivious. If he is supposed to be wise in the rest of the movie then that scene is just inconsistent.

  3. Ryan says:

    I’m with Jeri on this one. While it did scream “clever indie dialogue!” at first, I forgot about it as the movie went on. The comment about music is an interesting question, though.

  4. Amanda Mae says:

    I liked that moment where she says “I don’t really know what kind of girl I am.” but that’s probably just because I remember feeling that same way around that age. Hell, even now and then I still do.

    Nate and I saw this one and I told him I liked it, and he said I just liked it because I was mean like Juno.

    Yah, the music conundrum is a real one. I wonder though, how many of her opinions are pretended so as to be cool. One can always say one likes Iggy and the Stooges, but secretly listen to Kimya Dawson… I’m trying to think of any time we hear her actually listen to music and I think it’s just when she and Bateman listen to Mott the Hoople.

  5. Nobody says:

    I wonder though, how many of her opinions are pretended so as to be cool.

    Very interesting, Amanda.

    Juno’s persona is so transparently constructed, most apparent in her language, that it may even extend to her claimed tastes.

    Her self-fasioned persona would also explain her claim not to know what kind of girl she is. And that line seems so out of character because it is a rare moment of honesty or gennuine unguardedness: for a couple of seconds she ceases to project a persona.

    You might have single-handedly rehabilitated this film for me. It is an in-story (indeed in-character) explanation for almost everything I dislike about it. Perhaps a second viewing is in order.

  6. Beady eyes Al says:

    Hmmm. I seem to hover behind this entry like some sort of goading wraith, provoking you to fury with my pro-Juno statements.

    Here is my Faerie Queene-esque key to understanding the allegory of Juno. If this doesn’t persudqe you to like it nothing will:

    Juno = Hillary Clinton
    Michael Cera = Bill (or a photo-negative, unpriapic Bill)
    Jennifer Garner = Barack Obama
    Jason Bateman = Osama Bin Laden
    Juno’s dad = Carter
    Iggy Pop = JFK
    Baby = U.S.A.

    Michael Cera’s frequent invocation of the ‘wizard’, that is, the Archimago, is of course, you – the evil spellster whose false Florimell is the wicked unholy representation of the film in your blog. Cera is in awe of the ‘wizard’ who has tricked him with his deceitful conjurations.

    It all makes perfect sense if you don’t subject it to any sort of logic or scrutiny.

  7. Amanda Mae says:

    I can just remember many times in my own younger life that I’d name drop thing like Camus or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, or… I don’t know, anything to find some kind of affinity with people. Juno knows enough to seem cool, she likes a smattering of everything, perhaps hoping to have something to talk about with people she percieves as “cool”. That’s part of why Paulie matters to her so very much, he doesn’t care about any of that, and she is herself. They NEVER talk about stuff like that, whereas she and Jason Bateman don’t talk about anything else.

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