Monday, February 11, 2008

Juno (Reitman)

Considering that it's supposed to be a feel-good comedy, I knew that when I walked out of Juno feeling slightly depressed, the film had probably not been created with me in mind. Apparently I was supposed to be charmed, touched, and tickled by its deft balance of wit and pathos, but mostly I was just resentful of people who seemed to have had happier childhoods than I did. The film critic in me liked what he saw, but the morose misanthrope in me cringed. Instead of thinking, "Oh, so this bright young teenage girl accidentally got pregnant? How cute!," I was thinking, "Wow, so these people actually had sex lives in high school? God how depressing."

As documented here and here, Juno is now facing the year's nastiest cinematic backlash. Many feel that the dialogue is unrealistic or too cute by half. Haters have expressed their disdain for the movie's pseudo-scribbled credits, overcooked pop culture references, and suffocatingly twee soundtrack. To be honest, I didn't mind those things all that much. Some have said that high school girls don't actually talk like this. Personally, I recall the people at my high school being a pretty sharp bunch, and yes, they coined random catchphrases and deployed them in conversation at almost every chance they could find. Besides, who wants to watch a movie where all the people talk like idiots? It's OK for dialogue in a film to be smart as long as it brings you closer to the characters and doesn't distract from the story. And I don't think Juno fell into that trap, as much as it seemed it was about to do so.

The bottom line is, I just didn't relate very much to these people, given the jaded state of my urban existence. Except, that is, for the potentially adoptive couple, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. This couple flew in from another movie - you know, the one with the characters that Little Earl could actually care about. Their story is the melancholy soul of this film. And every one of their scenes managed to sidestep all of the potential pitfalls and wrong turns their narrative could have so easily wandered down. There is a moment, after it's clear that Juno is spending way too much time with the Jason Bateman character, where we think, "Ah, yes, the wife's going to come home and think Juno and her husband are doing the jailbait dance." But the movie takes that scene to a totally different, and much more interesting, place. For the couple's plotline alone, the movie deserves respect and admiration.

But the rest of it? I dunno. I caught Juno early on and was not surprised when it became the monster hit of the awards season. But it's not a movie that spoke to me. And I'd like to think that a truly great movie would be able do that, no matter how jaded and misanthropic I might be.

Hell, she should have just gotten the abortion.

"Film Critic" rating: ****
"Little Earl" rating: ***


herr zrbo said...

I havent' seen Juno, but I can't imagine it's better than Daddy Day Camp.

Nadine said...

I'm glad to know there is someone else who doesn't think "Juno" is funny !

Little Earl said...

Yeah, I actually laughed more in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, so what does that tell you?