05 December 2007

Juno

Full credits at IMDb
Watch the Trailer

Directed by: Jason Reitman
Written by: Diablo Cody

Grade: C+

Enough with the superserious abortion movies, right? 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days wins the Palme D'Or and it's all like, ugh, I get it. Can't we have, like, a really cute movie about how carrying a baby to term is a totally awesome experience? About, as Nathan Lee wrote, "how totally hilarious and super-sweet it is for a 16-year-old high-school girl not to have an abortion"? Isn't it time the Gilmore Girls crowd had a movie about teen pregnancy to feel good about and call their own?

Or so went the reasoning, presumably, behind the ultimately misguided decision to produce Juno, an often insufferable piece of hyperquirkiness, from its indie lofi soundtrack right down to its lead's hamburger-telephone (awww!), not to mention that one character's one and only vice is...orange tic tacs! Hee hee, gr8!

The title character, played by Ellen Page (last seen, by me anyway, trying to chop off Patrick Wilson's hoo-ha in Hard Candy), is described in the film as "just...different," a line that just about sums up the film's proud celebration of how, like, totally friggin' unique it is. (That's why it's named after it's main character!) Director Reitman's previous outing, Thank You For Smoking, wasn't exactly lacking for personal style, but Juno cranks the idiosyncratic aesthetic up to 11. "You're, like, the coolest person I know and you don't even have to try," Page tells co-star Michael Cera (God bless him), who replies, "I try really hard, actually." So too, to an unflatteringly conspicuous degree, does the film.

Page gets impregnated—whooops! LOL!—by her BFF Cera and because, so it seems, the abortion clinic is like totally lame she decides she'll keep the baby and give it to some couple who needs it. Thanx! Her decision to keep the baby in her belly seems, like the film, perfunctory at best and self-righteous at worst. Thank You For Smoking's crackling cynicism has been replaced by a smug hipness, Napoleon Dynamite devoid any glimmer of goofy charm, that leads the filmmakers to often pause the film to discuss matters of Great Importance, like whether '77 or '93 was the best year for rock, or whether Dario Argento is a better splatterist than Herschell Gordon Lewis. (Get the references? Cool, right?)

When, midway, Juno begins to lighten up with the preciousness and honestly confronts, or at least hints at, the complexities of the adoption process—from the role of the perspective parents (maybe they can't conceive on their own for a reason?), the emotional difficulty in carrying a child to term only to surrender it upon its birth, a pregnancy's irreversible effects on a romantic relationship—it begins to do better as a film, but just about squanders all of its dramatic capital with a right-out-of-Full House climactic conversation between Page and her father, J.K. Simmons. "Find someone who'll love you for you!" K!

Simmons, Cera, and Jason Bateman round out the film's margins nicely (in addition to a fine cameo from Rainn Wilson), but it's not their film, even collectively; it belongs, of course, to Page in the eponymous role, who gives a commanding performance and thoroughly creates a credible character out of Juno, with a hand from Diablo Cody's script I'm sure. But unfortunately that character is obnoxious to the point of bordering on the outright unlikable—an incessant wisenheimer. In short, a real-life teenager. (Ugh!)

9 comments:

meghan said...

i get your point but your short hand gets a bit too much and comes off as snotty. i'm sorry i just can't bare to see a movie with michael cera get a c+

H. Stewart said...

I agree it's snotty, but Juno's a snotty movie. A snot for a snot!

Michael Cera's a master and he's still great in this movie.

thomas pitilli said...

Stephanie wants to see this movie tomorrow. I said yes 'cause the kid from Superbad is in it, but now I'm second guessing...

weazoid said...

I agree with Meg - you do sound a little snotty. Maybe Juno is a snot, but so am I and I loved the movie!

Shirl said...

I'm pretty sure that this film is meant to be a light hearted comedy. Doesn't it decrease the credibility of your review by using internet shorthand like "lol!" and "k!" in order to mock it? It kind of makes you sound... a bit immature. The fact that the main character acts like a real teenager shouldn't be seen as a weak point, considering that this is a film about a 15 year old teenager. The random references about which splatterist is better and what year was best for rock gives me a sense of how much Juno invested into her hobbies and interests. I don't see how that can be a bad thing.

Maybe I'm blinded by how much I truly enjoyed Juno. But it seems to me that in your determination to hate this "hip" and "unique" film, you might have missed some really worthwhile aspects of the film.

H. Stewart said...

http://www.filmfreakcentral.net/screenreviews/juno.htm

rtest88 said...

It's not Juno, who speaks like an obnoxious teenager that's the problem... It's everyone she talks to, who sounds like an obnoxious teenager, that's the problem. From the gas station attendant to Juno's parents. Every line in that movie was unbearable. I'm a teenage girl who's immersed in the same type of teenage "hip" culture and I wasn't impressed, nor did I feel a connection to the film. Not only that, but NO ONE talks like that. The only character who didn't speak that way was Jennifer Garner because being a suburban mom is so uncool and so not hip. So they portray her as some crazy wanna-be mom with a stick up her ass.
My main point isn't that the dialogue was unrealistic. It's that it wasn't remotely funny. It was this vapid mess of irrelevant hipster references and I am truly baffled of how popular this film really was.

H. Stewart said...

Yeah the problem with the dialogue isn't that it's unrealistic, because there's plenty of wonderful unrealistic dialogue throughout film, theater, etc. that's marvelous.

I guess the line is fine, but Juno definitely crosses it. (It's like the old adage about porno: I can't define it but I know it when I see it.) It's too smug, it's too hip, too self-conscious, and so on and so on. At first it's mildly charming--I didn't mind Rainn Wilson--but it quickly looses that charm.

Juno tries way too hard to fit in by showing that it doesn't fit in.

Sara said...

This Juno review could not be more accurate. I "LOLed" all the way through reading it. This movie does try way to hard and Ellen Page just gets annoying with her excruciatingly excessive hipster-attitude. I must praise Jason Bateman's believable performance as the creepy bordering-into-pedophilia dad to be. Cheers!