October 23, 2008

late in Juno





Ok, I finally saw this movie last night. I have wanted to see this movie for ages – and always had its special brain drawer for the following reasons:
a. written by a first time screenwriter and she won an oscar
b. her writing style attracted my attention
c. I liked her creative screenwriting interview
d. And yeah, well, everyone was talking about Juno.
e. And all that before it won an oscar and an array of other awards.
f. So there.

The plot:

Well, since I have seen this movie about 15 years after everyone else, probably you all know the plot. And since I can´t see into the future, might as well look into the past and learn from history – something I highly recommend.

In a nutshell: its about teen pregnancy. And written by a former stripper. You might ask yourself how is being a stripper pertinent to the equation? Well, I ask myself the same thing but this detail from Ms. Cody´s life was always included in any discussions – written or verbal – therefore its been added to my review as well. Since I think its part of the whole Juno phenomenon.

So yeah – the teen pregnancy thing. But the hero isn´t some dumbass chav (ie redneck uneducated girl (why does Sarah Palin´s daughter keep appearing in the thought bubble above my head? That’s why I didn´t add the adjective “poor” which one might usually assume in cases like this. )

On imdb, the plot summary as follows: its about growing up. Well, um, yes, I guess. One does still have a bit more growing up to do - . But is getting pregnant and having a kid at 16 supposed to be a part of that process? I still am sputteringly speechless that this even happens in first world countries – like hello?? Condomns anyone? Sex ed? Contraceptives? What ever happened to the sexual revolution of the 60´s? When everyone was open about everything sexual and what you can do to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Or is this “no one blinks if a 16 year old gets knocked up mentality” part of the new and disturbing neo-conservative-pro-creationist-bible quoting youth?

Maybe I am missing the point: that because she IS smart she got prego. If so, what point or hidden message might that be? Dunno. Haven´t figured that one out yet.

Anyways – Juno. Yes, a lot of hype due to the above-named reasons. Certainly the bohemian-esque flavored break-in story of stripper turned writer Diablo Cody helped to propel this otherwise small film into the heavenly heights of Hollywood posterity. And because it was supposed to be different, edgy, witty, acerbic, real, funny, bla.

The positive side (always like to start with the boring stuff first):

In its favor, Juno - the topic was handled with some finesse and not the usual pontificating heavyhandedness of some dull boring sanctimonious Hollywood mainstream soppy type director.

So instead we got the cool kids. Jason Reitman. Yeah, ok.

The film isn´t totally forgetful largely due to the excellent Ellen Page. I really can´t think of another actress who could have pulled that off. Or rather, with any other actress, the movie would have just been another rather lame indie type movie-ette. Nice intentions, fervant filmmakers, decent acting and fairly no-nonsense camera work.

It really does stand and fall with her performance. Tiny, petite, very pretty with a balding grandpa-esque sort of wisdom, this curious combination enabling her to somehow navigate the often crass ridiculous lines:

“You should've gone to China, you know, 'cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.”

Its like they tried to make her character into a cigar chomping WC Fields of the new millenium. Wow, and it’s a girl. We are so not politically correct politically correct by being not politically correct.

I don’t recall laughing even once. I mean, I laughed more when my collegue read out an email from the Starbucks weekly news bulletin. And they aren´t even meant to be funny.

On the page – within a collection of quotes, the script reads funny. I mean, when I read it, I thought: damn. This is good.

But spoken, acted, in the movie, I found it incredibly pretentious and contrived and so not funny. The WC fields/May West combo rolled and stuffed into this tiny actress with the deadpan delivery just didn´t work so well for me. Wincingly irritating more like it.

Oh yea, the other up note - a bow and some flowers please to the supporting cast gathered around Ellen Page. Good performances all around. For sure. Their lines were somewhat less grating than Juno´s.

In fact, her dad – Mac MacDuff (played by JK Simmons) had the best lines – the funniest. He had like about 3 – but they were pretty funny. And did managed to coax a smile out of me.

The dotted lines connecting the void between teen world and the various grown ups were filled in with a certain dexterity and finesse. Believable. Even tender.

Yeah, Jennifer Garner as the desperately-wanna-be-mom-well-to-do-housewife-career-woman was typecasting at its best (I can imagine her doing the same thing with her real-life husband Ben Affleck. You know, pondering in front of a white wall, with two stripes of exactly the same color of yellow, debating which shade will give off the best vibes and help turn her kid into a fiercely competitive violin-playing-whilst-twirling-pirouettes-princess by the age of 3)

Racking my brains, trying to think of anything truly groundbreaking or heartbreaking, or moving about this film – but really, all I get are lots of question marks popping up over my head.

What could have been subtle and genuinly funny instead was for the most part strained and witless - on the whole, it just turned into a halfway decent piece of hackwork.

To see this as never heard before dialogue - finger on the pulse awesomeness – well, no, I don´t think so. It works in that gray area between trivia and virtue. The virtue being the cast, the trying-too-hard-to-be-wit-kicking funny made it trivial.

If sharp and sparkling is what you are looking for – go rent a 30´s comedy with Katherine Hepburn or Better Davis or even Ginger and Fred.

Call me conservative, but it did absolutely nothing to deter any kid from having a baby. What the psychological fallout actually does to all involved. I´d be interested to know what adoptees thought of this movie.

Juno has her baby, hands it over, and goes back to business as usual, re-bonding with the nerdy kid who knocked her up. To live happily ever after? Not so sure about that.

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