Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Juno Situation

Juno at first seemed to me like one of those "either/or"-either you love it or you don't-especially after the film's multiple Oscar nominations divided folks into two camps,one pro-Juno and the other hating it with the fury of a thousand hot suns. The backlash grew even stronger after screenwriter Diablo Cody snagged a Best Original Screenplay award for her debut script.

I really wanted to like this movie;it has such a wonderful cast with Ellen Page,Michael Cera,Jason Bateman,J.K. Simmons,Allison Janney and Jennifer Garner(who I don't blame for Elektra being such a clunker). Not to mention that I do enjoy stories with quirky female leads who can crack wise and sprout off pop culture riffs as easily as chewing gum. So,I decided to give Juno a fair chance and kept my mind open as I watched the film.

What I ultimately took away from Juno was a sense that the actors gave more emotional input into the plot and the characterization than the screenplay provided for them. The director did a good job of setting the tone and the pace of the plot but the strength of Juno lies within it's cast,especially Ellen Page. Juno Macguff is pretty damn hard to warm up and yet not that hard to figure out;she uses her wit and seemingly above it all attitude to cover up her emotional insecurities that stem from her mother's abandonment of her.

Juno's dad and stepmother are reluctantly supportive of her unexpected pregnancy and do seem to care about her,even if they appear to be rather laid back about it. Both parents do display some fierce protectiveness at times(such as stepmom Bren telling off a judgmental ultrasound tech)and offset the anxious natures of expectant adoptive parents Mark and Vanessa,who seem just as overwhelmed by Juno as her own family is:

While all of them are overwhelmed,I kept feeling very underwhelmed by the whole movie. Perhaps it was due to the hype or the mass hatred that rose my expectations but the thought that ran thru my head during most of this film was "I've seen this situation done better on Gilmore Girls."

Comparing Juno to Gilmore Girls is fair,both have strong snappy talking gals who were attracted to weak guys and had to deal with being pregnant at sixteen. I even watched the GG Season three episode,"Dear Richard and Emily" on DVD,that has Lorelai's backstory in flashback and it holds a lot more realistic water than certain scenes in Juno to me.

Here's a side by side look(so to speak)that may illustrate my point better:




Since Juno and Gilmore Girls both have excellent actors,the lack of nuance in Juno is solely in the writing and I do have to say that I've been reading Diablo Cody's semi regular EW essays in the back of the magazine and have been less than impressed.

I didn't want to judge the movie based on that and yet,another line from Gilmore Girls haunts me;it's during an argument between Rory and Lorelai where Rory says to her"You can't just say a normal sentence,right? Like,you can't just say "Hey,let's talk",that would be too boring for you." That pretty much applies to most of the dialogue in Juno.

Some of the better scenes in the movie are nonverbal,such as when Juno and Vanessa run into each other at the mall and their eyes express all their hopes and dreams for the baby or when Juno breaks down and cries by the side of the road after a visit gone wrong with Mark and Vanessa.

To wrap this up,my ultimate impression of Juno is that it's a good movie,just not a great one. In many ways,it was promoted as the chick version of Napoleon Dynamite(a damn annoying movie)and at least it wasn't as cartoony in it's humor or depiction of offbeat teens.

Two small complaints before I go-while I can take the "honest to blog" line and the "Thundercats are GO!",I can not buy Juno's dad saying "You look a little morose,honey." While it's part of a very nice scene between Juno and her father,the use of the word morose just breaks the reality of it for me. Morose is not a word that any one of any background just drops into conversation and expects to be taken seriously.

Also,all of those Moldy Peaches tunes on the soundtrack made me want to scream "Silenco,old man!" I find it hard to believe that a sixteen year old girl who is into Dario Argento films and Iggy Pop would have this meandering treacle play as the background music to her life. Then again,my taste in music and on screen sass are rather old school:

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