Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Movie Log: Juno

Since the kids had school last Monday -- but I had a holiday at work -- The Wife and I grabbed the opportunity to go out and see a movie for adults in the theater. Juno is about a bunch of teenagers, but it's much more adult than most of the current R-rated movies about killer skeleton-whales and dying grumpy old men.

Juno's been getting glowing reviews and award hype at every turn, and that's all mostly justified. Yes, the first five minutes or so of Juno are in an exceptionally arch patois, but the movie settles down after that. (And I wouldn't be surprised if that opening was in there just to get the script read by jaded young interns at production companies -- much like American Pie was read and bought because the script was called "Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love.")

The sausage-factory workings of Hollywood aside, Juno is an excellent movie. It has about seven major characters, and all of them are played by fine actors doing good work with honest, realistic lines. It's that rare movie that sees all of its characters as individuals, rather than as representatives of a type -- Juno is not popular at her school, but she's not "the Goth," or anything else pre-digested, she's just herself. And the fact that her best female friend is a cheerleader was a great touch, showing quietly that real people don't fit into tidy marketing categories and that the real world is always a bit messier than we expect.

You've probably heard of Juno by now, so I won't bother talking about the plot much -- Juno (Ellen Page) is our main character, and in the very first scene she learns that she's pregnant from what seems to be a one-time experimental thing with her best friend Bleeker (Michael Cera, doing much the same shtick as he did in Superbad, only with the creepy passive-aggressiveness dialed down and the quizzical tentativeness dialed up). She almost gets an abortion, but of course no positively-depicted woman can actually have an abortion in a major American work of entertainment, so she decides to have the baby and put it up for adoption. (That might be slightly unfair to this particular movie, which needed Juno to decide to find a childless couple to take her baby -- and the scene where Juno runs out of the abortion clinic works well. But I stand by the general point; there are some stories that just won't be told.)

Things go on from there, and Juno is saved from becoming an Afterschool Special by one part acting and one part writing -- it isn't trying to be A Parable for Our Times (on any side of the teen pregnancy debate); it's telling this story about this girl, and she's quite enough to carry the movie. (Though, as I said, the rest of the cast is excellent as well.)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked it. But I had a different explanation for the clever dialogue--I think until a certain point in the movie Juno isn't really dealing with reality and part of how she's dealing with it is by being ultra-clever and arch. It seems revealing that especially once the whole thing with the foster parents seems to fall through, she reaches a point where all of that is stripped away.

JeffV

Andrew Wheeler said...

Jeff: Your point about Juno's dialogue in particular could be true, but...the first scene is a dialogue between Juno and the store clerk (whom we never see again), and they're both being very mannered and slangy, with lots of invented terms. That felt like showboating dialogue to me.

patrick said...

i assumed Juno was directed by the same guy that directed Knocked Up because it's about an unexpected pregnancy, and Michael Cera stars as Juno's boyfriend (he was one of the goofy kids from Superbad, a close relative of Knocked Up), but it turns out this is not the case

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