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Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Nice Colors he said sarcastically;
This is a film that it took me a long while to see because I felt like I had already seen it. Before going into it I knew what it was going to be, a quirky teenage comedy about pregnancy. It had the same kind of charm I guess of Superbad and the like, which is why I didn't feel obliged to see it, because I felt like I already knew everything I wanted to about it, and if I saw it it would be more of the same. I was totally right, despite all the praise heaped upon it it is the same old shit, but for some reason it feels more manufactured than the rest. An analogy will help here, it's a McDonald's burger compared to a Burger King burger. Either way it's unhealthy, and has much less cow than you wish it did, but one feels just a bit less fake than the other. To me Juno is a McDonald's burger.

The problem with the film is nothing so easily notable, but more of a general problem with the tone of the film as well as the dialogue. I don't have the problem many people seem to have with it, whether it is either pro-life or pro-abortion or anything, because it is not either, it's just a tale of one person's pregnancy and how it affected her, and her family's lives. That's the thing it doesn't make any grand statements despite it dealing with some fairly complex and oft debated issues. It takes the route of many teen films and is simply a slice of life, nothing more and nothing less. I also don't think that the reactions are unrealistic or anything like that because people are weird and react differently, and rarely show their true feelings, so the displays in the film are not entirely absent from reality.

The film is not bad, and I like the genre so it's not that it's not my type of film, it is well acted with some good people like Micheal Cera in the only role he ever plays, and Jason Bateman in the role of a jerk, which is something he does fairly well. The problem is again that it is measured quirkiness, and the attempts to recreate actual teenagers are well, not quite perfect. Some of the dialogue in the film just feels off, with stuff like 'honest to blog' I mean what the fuck, no one talks like that, no one. It doesn't have heart, at least not a real one. Maybe it has a heart of gold, a mechanical, artificial, unfeeling heart that is per-constructed for a specific purpose.
The movie could use a little oil.
The film begins with a nice animated sequence of our titular character walking through her daily life, drinking Sunny D. Despite the fact that this is explained as her needing to piss to do a third pregnancy test it is still the first sign that she may be a little bit weird, a little 'quirky', and note I use the word with the utmost derision. The whole archetype just kind of pisses me off because it is so fake and so separated from reality. Weird people are all different, and none of them are like the films make them out to be. At least the animated credits sequence is nice, and we do have a pretty cool scene with Dwight from the office, which is good for a few laughs, because the movie is not a bad comedy, it has decent jokes as well as snark, and some of the supporting actors can really pull it off.

We don't actually see the other lead, or at least billed man, Micheal Cera for quite some time, and I'm going to refer to him by the actor's name, because that is all he plays. He only has maybe 20 minutes of screen time, and that's probably a high estimate, because he is actually not her boyfriend. I did actually like this, that they don't have a permanent relationship and that there is something different than another film of the same time, Knocked Up. So she tells him that she's pregnant and he kind of accepts that she's getting an abortion, than goes off. Little to no real interaction, just kind of plot stuff, and maybe a few jokes.

After maybe another half an hour we get to meet the pair that she is giving her baby to, because she decided that abortion was wrong for her. Not for other people, but for her, which is an important note for anyone who uses this film to support any point regarding abortion. So we meet Jason Bateman, who is obviously not very keen about having a baby, and Juno interacts with him in a really creepy way, because the dude is twice your age, just don't fall for him. They don't end up doing anything, but it's just such a fucked up relationship that you're happy nothing happens. The rest of the movie is Juno experiencing different stages of pregnancy, and the various reactions to it, as well as exploring her relationships with other characters more. Now in the end she does end up with Micheal, when she realizes he is her 'true love' which is kind of cheesy, but I guess some stories do need happy endings.
An example of manufactured quirkiness.
Pregnancy is not really glorified throughout the film, no matter what some critics might think, and Juno is clearly ostracized in her high-school because of her decision to keep it. With visible staring and avoiding her when she's late in the pregnancy. Admittedly her charisma does lend a certain juno se qua to the whole thing, but in the end the act of giving birth is certainly portrayed as a painful experience, with Micheal simply lying by her after it, as a needed loving presence. The movie ends with her relationship with Micheal still very strong, and them having worked through any potential issues that the fact that they had a baby first done away with. I don't know I guess it ends just as it begun, with a chair, so some nice bookends, and just as it came in at a time in a life it leaves at a different time, as the genre so loves to do.

I suppose what surprises me most is not the film but the enormously positive reception it got at the time, with Roger Ebert naming it his top movie of the year ahead of No Country For Old Men. The Academy also gave it one award and it was nominated for several more, though it was never going to win Best Picture. I just find it not quite contrived, but manufactured, which just takes a way a huge amount from it. I think a film that did the same general style well might have been Napoleon Dynamite, which did have that same kind of general weirdness and quirkiness much as I hate that word but it worked somehow, it had more heart. Maybe it was more straight-faced in its presentation, and that was what made it work, but I think that the problem here lies with the director, though the script could use some actual teenage consultants on.

It felt like a film, a well made and acted film, but still a film. A film is supposed to immerse you in a different world, even if it is in the same reality. No Country did this for me with the shots of landscapes, the lingering conversations, and the whole air made me believe in the Texas that was shown, believe that Anton Chigurh was a badass murderer, that he was effectively death incarnate, though he didn't really have any power when the protagonist was killed by some randoms off-screen. On the whole it wasn't heart-felt though some of the performances were. If you want a light teen comedy, go watch Superbad, or one from the 80's, or Dazed and Confused. It's not a bad film, but there are many better ones with the same tone and style.

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