Let’s pretend for a moment that we’re all foreign exchange students and to navigate America’s cultural landscape our only resource are movie reviews. In that context it’s not hard to surmise that the coming-of-age preggers movie Juno is perhaps the pinnacle of movie making. It’s heretofore the greatest acheivement this side of Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane.
Though we don’t ever get a review blurb along the lines of “Juno is the Citizen Kane of teenage pregnancy movies!” just glancing over its 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes we get blurbs as clunky as the hipper than hipper dialogue from first time screenwriter and ex-stripper Diablo Cody.
Regardless, what most critics won’t tell you (something only Emily Gould at Gawker and Matthew Perpetua at Fluxblog have picked up on) is that Juno tries just too hard to earn our affection, littered with a Wes Anderson-y soundtrack of acoustic indie-folk gems and dialogue intended to coin the next great movie catch phrase.
When we first meet Juno McGuff (Ellen Page in a star making performance) she’s taking pregnancy tests and getting some advice from Raine Wilson’s store clerk. He tosses out such blurbs as “Homeskillet” and “that’s not an etch-a-sketch, that’s one doodle you can undiddle” and it’s all very funny and not the least bit serious. However, Juno is a 16-year-old girl and as we come to later find out, acts more like she’s 26.
That disconnect – between how old Juno acts and how old she actually is – is one of the movie’s central problems. She seems so okay with getting knocked up, so blase about it you just want to shake the shit out of her. Except for a few keys scenes when she drops her guard and it occurs to you just what kind of tough girl facade she has created for herself.
On top of that her parents, played with aplomb by J.K. Simmons and Allyson Janney, are relatively okay with her getting the baby juice from Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera in a mumbly performance of such subtlety you wonder if he showed up for the movie or if he mailed in his performance from the set of Judd Apatow’s latest comedy) and you just want to shake the shit out of them!
So Juno deals with getting preggers and wants to give away her baby to the yuppie couple and get back to her life as a blase teenage outcast. Which she eventually does after a few shenanigans, but nothing worth mentioning here. The whole thing is propped up with a soundtrack full of tunes from Belle & Sebastian, The Moldy Peaches, The Kinks and even Buddy Holly! Which was great when Wes Anderson does it, but this time around it seems about five years too late.
Ultimately, Juno feels like one of those cute but hollow movies propped up by a soundtrack and the execution of its own cleverness. But when you peel all those things away you’re just left with only the third best movie about unplanned pregnancy this year. Yup, Juno isn’t nearly as poignant as Waitress or as funny as Knocked Up. That’s my blurb and I’m sticking to it. Honest to blog!
Also: Fox Searchlight is making the screenplay available to read for free. It’s certainly worth a read because the dialogue comes across much better on the page then it does through speakers.
And: One of the actually cool things about the movie was the rotoscoped opening credits. They were created by Shadowplay Studios. See them below!
One More Thing: This video of Jason Bateman and Michael Cera doing a promo press junket for the movie just goes to show how under utilized Bateman was during the entire affair. Man I miss Arrested Development. That almost goes without saying though.