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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Juno (review)

Baby Love

One of my fellow critics, whom I won’t name because this makes me want to strangle him, called JunoKnocked Up lite.” Buzz on the Net wonders whether Juno is “a chick flick,” with all the accompanying baggage of inferiority and silly, frilly irrelevance that loaded phrase carries. And all because, I can only guess, stories about unexpected pregnancies that actually acknowledge that a female person is an actual participant in the event — and not merely an inconvenient bystander to further complicate a man’s suddenly finding himself pronounced “daddy” — couldn’t be less pertinent to half the human race.
I’d scream with rage and frustration, except Juno is so damn good, so damn relevantKnocked Up fans be damned — that I am becalmed. Like Waitress, the similarly themed, ahem, “chick flick” from earlier this year, this is a heightened, brightened, skip-a-dee-doo-dah glide through one of life’s big goalposts: not so much growing up but growing out. And I don’t mean bellywise, either. Like Waitress, this is snarly-funny and whipsmart-witty enough that if you don’t want to take any deeper wisdom from it, you don’t have to, and you can still have a wonderfully good time at the movies with it just relishing the off-plumb family drollery and the kind of please-kill-me teenage angst that reminds you why you never, ever want to be a kid again (and yet still have fond memories of the era). But if you care to look for juicy bits of meaty substance concerning the power of genuine friendship, the promise and hope that accompanies new babies, and the unexpected expansion of your own self when you suddenly see other people, well, that’s all here to be had.

It’s a familiar tale, though one rarely told with such insight or such casual acceptance: Juno MacGuff, high schooler (Ellen Page, who between this and last year’s startling Hard Candy is headed for stardom), finds herself — oops! — preggers after some sexual experimentation with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (sweet-faced Michael Cera, also seen in this summer’s Superbad). Her dad and stepmom (the ever indispensable J.K. Simmons [Rendition, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee] and Allison Janney [Hairspray, Over the Hedge]) are stunned for only a brief moment, then immediately supportive. Right from the get-go, and on through the whole film, there’s a refreshingly nonpanicky approach to the whole situation: Yes, having a baby, especially at a young age, can dramatically impact the rest of young woman’s life, and yes, it’s nothing to be taken too lightly, but on the other hand: it’s not the end of the world. It’s a baby, that’s all — something humanity has been dealing with since forever. And also: sex is a normal thing, and nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, the kids at school give Juno and her ever-expanding midsection the sly eye, and sure, her parents briefly wonder whether it wouldn’t have been better if their daughter’s “big news” were that she’d been expelled from school or was doing drugs, but the entirety of the rest of the film — this is a wise first screenplay from the deliciously named Diablo Cody — puts paid to such thoughts. How could a perfectly normal thing like a pregnancy be a totally awful thing?

Of course, the so-called “pro life” crowd is already jumping on Juno’s choice to have the baby and give it up for adoption as some sort of vindication of their forced-pregnancy creed — as if this would be precisely the same kind of joyful yet down-to-earth sensible flick were Juno denied her choice. The fact that it’s her decision — and perhaps even a contrary, less than obvious one — to seek out a couple to adopt her baby is what breathes the sweet, funny, awkward real life into the film: growing up isn’t just about making the best of the mess you find yourself in but figuring out what’s best when that’s not always clear. Jennifer Garner (The Kingdom, Catch and Release) and Jason Bateman (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Smokin’ Aces), as the well-off professional couple working-class Juno finds herself temporarily hitched to — they want in on every moment of her pregnancy in advance of taking her baby as their own — are just one more confused and confusing encounter on Juno’s crooked path to herself. They’re not as perfect as they seem, but they, too, are beautiful and authentic in their imperfection.

Director Jason Reitman gave us last year’s cunning Thank You for Smoking, but here he grows as a filmmaker by melding the snarky with the shrewd. He doesn’t knock getting knocked up, nor does he sentimentally celebrate it, either. He merely recognizes it, in a simple, gloriously human way, as part of this crazy old thing called life, which rarely accedes to our wishes to unfold the way we want it to.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • Paula

    He doesn’t knock getting knocked up, nor does he sentimentally celebrate it, either. He merely recognizes it, in a simple, gloriously human way, as part of this crazy old thing called life, which rarely accedes to our wishes to unfold the way we want it to.

    That’s really funny, because some people have said/would say exactly the same thing about Knocked Up.

  • MaryAnn

    It says it, maybe, but I don’t think it means it.

  • JT

    I think Juno benefits a lot from the cast. Everyone is perfect in their roles, and Ellen Page is amazing. I also liked Michael Cera and Jason Bateman a lot, even though they don’t share any scenes together. But the script falters when Juno is throwing out references to 70s punk bands and obscure Dario Argento movies. I got the feeling that was Diablo Cody inserting too much of herself into a much younger character.

    There’s a scene between Juno and Mark when she shows up at his house and they watch a horror movie – and it just does not work. I thought, maybe Juno’s trying to portray herself as wise and knowledgeable beyond her years in order to impress Mark, who it seems she has a crush on.

    Then there’s a scene when her water breaks and she cries out “Thundercats are gooooooo!” and I really began to feel like the pop culture references were not jiving well with a 16 year-old character.

    Minus the barrage of indie pop songs on the soundtrack, and some tweaking of the dialogue, I would have liked it a lot more. On the scale of movies like Rushmore that have a lot of heart and genuine energy to it and self-conscious, hollow tripe like Garden State, Juno falls somewhere in between. It shares some elements with those movies, but doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s a light breezy way to spend a trip to the movies. It’s only fault is that it flirts with being a little too cute and precious and loses some of its sincerity in the process.

  • MaryAnn

    But she doesn’t have a crush on Mark: he’s got one on her, maybe, and when she learns that, she is totally grossed out: he’s *old.*

    And you’d be surprised at how kids today seem to know all sorts of pop culture even from forty years ago. It’s the Internet, man: it’s leveling out some generation gaps.

  • JT

    There’s a scene where Juno is upset over something, and she gets into her minivan to go over to Mark’s, but pauses to put some lipstick on. That’s when I really thought she had a crush on him.

  • Gloria

    JT: Plus the skirt. Note that she tugs on it self-consciously before she goes in the house, and takes it off to visit Bleeker.

    Loved the movie. Definitely kids today knows a lot about retro pop culture; the more obscure and actually earlier than their generation, the better.

  • It’s the Internet,man; it’s leveling some generation gaps.
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    Apparently not as many generation gaps as you think if you really believe this.

    After all, nostalgia for–and interest in–earlier decades was a big part of 1970s culture, and that..ahem…predated the Internet. Or at least it predated the era in which Internet usage became a daily thing for most Americans.

    You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to…

  • MaryAnn

    Of course nostalgia is no new thing. But it’s a lot easier with downloadable music and the entire history of TV (or so it seems sometimes) available on DVD.

  • MBI

    I wanted to like this film and I wanted to hate this film. I’m not sure I can do either. It’s not any better or worse than “Knocked Up”; in fact, it shares a lot of the same problems.

    Sure better than the unredeemably stupid Waitress though.

    Like… I’m not sure what the point of this movie was. Juno doesn’t really grow personally or change because of the pregnancy. She seems to have it pretty well together, not completely but certainly more than a teenager can be suspected to have. She doesn’t seem to share the anxieties, confusion or half-formed-ness of teenagers. “Ghost World” is about teenagers; “Juno” is about what adults wish they were like as teenagers.

    Like “Knocked Up,” it ends with the reunion of a broken couple, but “Knocked Up” is at least all about the relationship. The relationship in Juno is a minor side plot which is suddenly sent towards main plot. And like “Knocked Up,” I would have preferred to spend more time with the side couple than the main couple.

    Also, the dialogue is painful at times, especially in that horrible opening scene. Thankfully, it kind of mellowed out by the end. It’s a credit to the actors — every single one of the main cast, bless them all — that they were able to shine some sincerity through the overwritten screenplay.

  • Kate

    I wonder if sometimes people forget that sounding witty doesn’t always mean a character has everything together. Yes, the dialogue is fantastic in this movie! But I don’t think the film is using that to try to show that Juno isn’t really going through something emotionally throughout the entire film. I believe a very COMMON way for people of all ages to cover up their own anxieties and confusion is through wit and banter, and I thought it was refreshingly real, not just funny, here.

    I think ‘Juno’ is one of the very few popular movies I’ve seen where the teenaged girl actually felt like a real teenaged girl to me. Oh, sure, she’s a COOL one, a smart one, but still real-seeming. I see that not just from my long angle back on my own adolescence, but from my three nieces, aged 15, 16, and 17, each of whom is funny and witty and verbally sharp–and each of whom is a KID who is totally messed up, anxious, and insecure on other levels.

    Oh, and just a side note, the 15-year old loves Dario Argento AND Iggy Pop.

  • MaryAnn

    I know a 13-year-old who loves Patsy Cline and the Carpenters. Go know.

  • MBI

    Yeah, this alleged “reality” in Juno, I just don’t see it. Seriously, this is the least angsty pregnant teen in history. She deals with it like it’s a bad case of acne. If Ferris Bueller got himself pregnant, I’m sure his movie would be pretty much the same. If a critic calls this movie “Knocked Up”-lite, it’s probably because pregnancy was treated in “Knocked Up” like an actual life-changing event, something that “Juno” definitely does not. She carries a recliner out to her baby-daddy’s front yard so she can sit in while smoking a pipe so that she can break the news. For Christ’s sake, people.

    I mean, I don’t think this movie is all bad, just uneven. Instead of a movie about a pregnant teen, I would have liked it to be about the adopting couple, the overeager but well-meaning mom, the prospective dad not grown up enough to handle the responsibility, the unacknowledged and incredibly inappropriate attraction between him and the pregnant girl half his age. That’s where the heart of the movie is, not the girl’s teen romance and her heart-to-hearts with her dad.

    As a side note, the scene where the stepmom abuses the ultrasound technician was inexcusable. Worst scene in the movie.

  • MaryAnn

    So you think it would be okay for an ultrasound technician to criticize the decision of a young woman to have a baby, to that young woman’s face?

  • Mel

    I had the distinct impression that a lot of Juno’s wise-cracking was defensive, and that she was not nearly as casual and laid back about the pregnancy as she wanted people to think. I definitely got the impression that she was fishing for some sort of opinion other than “It’s all up to you” from Bleeker when she told him she was planning on an abortion–some kind of sign that he felt involved–and was disappointed when she didn’t get it.

    I was a teenager only a few years ago (I guess I was Juno’s age about 6 or 7 years ago), and I thought she was quite realistic in a way the vast majority of movie teenagers aren’t (also looked like a teenager, not a buxom, perfectly styled 20-something–and so did Bleeker and Juno’s ‘hot friend’ whose name I forget)–no, many teenagers aren’t as smart or witty or as good at putting on a laid-back facade. But just because the facade was good didn’t mean she was an adult, or unrealistically good at handling teen pregnancy.

  • shoop

    My wife and I saw Juno and had a great time. I agree that the screenplay sometimes falls into the “too-clever” trap–the line that made me check out temporarily was, “the kids at school call me the cautionary whale.” (I could almost buy Juno referring to herself that way, but other high school kids even knowing what a cautionary tale is, and then being able to pun on it? Well, no.) I was able to forgive this movie the occasional wrong note, because it just got so much dead-on–including the seemingly messy contradiction between Juno putting on make-up and adjusting her skirt before meeting the Jason Bateman character, and then getting repulsed when he makes an advance. In fact, it is a messy contradiction, and as such, very real indeed. Add to that the parents who know Juno a little better than she thinks they do, the surprising (yet believable) revelations about the prospective parents, and the sweet and satisfying development of Juno and Bleek’s relationship… well, all I can say is, Thundercats are indeed Go. As a side note, I see this thread has roped in some interesting movies by way of comparison, all of which I enjoyed. Just because I like making lists, here’s how I’d rate them, in descending order: 1) Juno, 2) Knocked Up, 3) Ghost World, 4) Garden State, and 5) Waitress.

  • MBI

    “So you think it would be okay for an ultrasound technician to criticize the decision of a young woman to have a baby, to that young woman’s face?”

    Uh… pretty much. Sorry, but all I can see in that scene is a woman abusing someone for no other reason that daring to suggest, in a single off-hand one-word comment (“Good”), that a baby is almost certainly better off in the hands of a couple that wants it than in the custody of a teenager — a conclusion which you can also reasonably assume that the pregnant teen’s family has also reached, given their decision.

    The whole thing struck me as completely unjustified and bitchy. I guess they were trying to sell it as a mom standing up for a daughter who’s in a difficult situation and doesn’t need any more judgment in a world that’s all too ready to heap it on her. But that’s a different movie entirely. Now that I think about it, yes, I do think I remember seeing hints of uncertainty and doubt in Juno’s eyes in one (and only one) scene, the one where she breaks the news to Bleeker. But those emotions hardly have anything to do with anything. I think there’s many things to like about this movie, but it’s about many things, and the difficulty of being a pregnant and 16 is not one of them. She doesn’t have to deal with disappointed parents, disapproving peers, a damaged relationship with her boyfriend, a judgmental world, difficulties with schoolwork, new heavy responsibilities — I can’t imagine an actual pregnant teen would have that much use for this film.

  • MaryAnn

    Sorry, but I’d be furious if a technician in a medical office saw fit to make any kind of critical comment on my medical situation. It’s totally inappropriate, and the Janney character was right to speak up as she did. And it certainly does not seem wrong for the tone of the film at all.

  • Jennifer

    One of the reasons I liked the technician scene, and other scenes with her parents, is that it makes it clear how she came into her wittiness so early. She’s not just some random prodigy among idiots, it’s how she was raised. And to add to the chorus about kids living outside their era, I’ve got an 18 year old coworker who I keep on trying to convince that there’s some good current music out there. I don’t think he actually listens to anything recorded during his lifetime, and his favorite concert so far was that silly Van Halen thing last year.

  • Gloria

    I think one of the reasons some people have problems with Juno is that they take Juno too much at face value — sure, scenes like her dragging a recliner to Bleeker’s house are silly, but the point is, she’s trying to cover up something serious with something distracting and over-the-top. She fills up her life with clever wisecracks and knick-knacks, things that build up but never *add* up to anything.

    (Personally I found her line about being a “cautionary whale” to her other kids she just fabricated so she could make the joke. It’s pretty obvious in the movie she doesn’t think much of many of her schoolmates.)

    Here’s another hooray for teenagers that look plausibly like teenagers!

  • shoop

    “(Personally I found her line about being a ‘cautionary whale’ to her other kids she just fabricated so she could make the joke. It’s pretty obvious in the movie she doesn’t think much of many of her schoolmates.)”

    Drat! Tripped up once again by my own too-literalness. Happens to me a lot.

    It’s interesting to note the “Rashomon” effect that creeps into movie threads. For example, the observation that “a single off-hand one-word comment (‘Good’)” is the cause of the “abuse” in the medical technician scene. Now, the way I remember it (cue flashback music and wavy screen effects), what the technician said was, “Thank God for that,” in a way that was not only NOT off-hand, but positively dripping with superiority and contempt. So I thought it was great when Allison Janney put the technician in her place in a way that in real life, I certainly never could. For me, that moment ranked right up there with Kevin Kline as Cyrano (recently on Broadway) waving his sword (and his nose) against stupidity, and Woody Allen bringing out Marshall McLuhan to tongue-lash the obnoxious movie patron in Annie Hall–wouldn’t it be great if life were really like this…

  • MBI

    I’m sorry, the technician could have dripped contempt while smoking a cigarette and laughing and I still wouldn’t like that scene. Things like that have to have a real setup before you can feel the proper release; the instant gratification of that seems makes it feel very cheap indeed. It would be one thing if Juno was suffering from a harsh judgmental world, but she’s undergoing what has to be the easiest teen pregnancy ever. There’s things worth causing a scene over and there’s what isn’t — and the whole thing rings as phony besides. Janney’s monologue is artificial in the same way that far too much of the movie is artificial — the dialogue doesn’t seem to highlight witty characters as much as a witty screenwriter.

  • MaryAnn

    Maybe that scene was a hint that she wasn’t, in fact, having the easiest teen pregnancy ever…

  • macbrooks

    Just weighing in on the “easy teen pregnancy” angle. It sounds, from both the article and the subsequent thread posts, that this girl did indeed have it easy. My sister-in-law got pregnant at 15; her boyfriend bragged about it to his friends and dumped her, her father was going to throw her out of the house but her mother divorced him so she could stay. That’s real life and this movie doesn’t really seem to be concerned with portraying it. I’ve known teens who’ve gotten pregnant and their families were more gung ho about it; however, it’s still extremely stressful and they weren’t cracking wise about any part of it.

    mac :}

  • MaryAnn

    I’m sorry for your sister-in-law’s bad experience, but that’s not everyone’s real life.

  • AlexK

    I’ve known teens who’ve gotten pregnant and their families were more gung ho about it; however, it’s still extremely stressful and they weren’t cracking wise about any part of it.

    Different families deal with stresses in different ways. Personally, I found the constant wisecracking in Juno’s family believable because I grew up in a family that wisecracked our way through tough times. It’s how we deal with stress. All that stuff made sense to me.

  • Paula

    In all honesty, the level of goodwill being shown towards the conceit of Juno, with nary a word about the politics of (non) abortion from people who a few months before excoriated KU is bemusing. If KU can get burned as misogynistic, anti-feminist, even unrealistic based on a career woman’s decision to keep the baby she has with an unemployed slacker, why isn’t Juno being raked over the coals for painting teen pregnancy in a positive light, with none of the required agonizing over abortion, in a case where that decision is even more pertinent given their age AND their relative lack of independence? Is adoption the fail-safe in this movie? If so, Juno is every bit as reactionary as KU was ever accused of being.

    However, this is probably where the variegations of the interpretive faculty fall. Because Juno is apparently a smart cookie and says any number of cool things and that makes her decision acceptable.

    In any case, I’ve tried to understand where I was being a “bad feminist” by seeing value in Knocked Up, but as it happens, the praise going to Juno reminds me that the mainstream’s conception of feminism is pretty thin indeed.

    Also: a recent write up on Juno that tackles the problem of scenes like the one with the ultrasound tech:

  • MaryAnn

    Pro-choice doesn’t mean: “Every woman who gets pregnant in a less than ideal situation must have an abortion.” It means “Every woman must have the choice.” *Knocked Up* acts like that opportunity for choice doesn’t really exist. This movie does not.

    Deciding to have a baby and give it up for adoption seems like a more mature and reasoned decision than deciding to have a baby with a man who can’t even take care of himself.

  • MBI

    “*Knocked Up* acts like that opportunity for choice doesn’t really exist.”

    I’m truly sick of hearing that line. Yes, it does. Abortion is explicitly and the mother opts against it. It doesn’t walk us through the process of her making the decision, but she clearly recognizes it as an option, as she tells whatshisface, “I’ve decided to keep the baby.” No one can tell me that “Knocked Up” is guilty of something which “Juno” is innocent of.

  • MaryAnn

    No, the mother *has opted against it* offscreen. That’s the same thing as pretending the choice doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist in this movie. It is not approached and considered and dealt with (all of which could have been done quickly — the movie needn’t have become all about the choice, which everyone understands would have made for a very different movie). It is dispensed with in such a way as to suggest that the choice doesn’t exist. If *Juno* can make us understand its protagonist’s decision in a few brief screen minutes, then so KU could have done, too. It would have gone part of the way toward making KU’s character a tad more realistic and understandable.

  • shoop

    Have to say this thread let me down a bit. “Paula” posted a very intriguing and problematic link, and the only responses have to do with the least interesting aspect: how much two movies whose premises depend on pregnant women carrying the babies to term devoted to the choice they need to make to keep the movies going, and whether or not one movie got it right, and one movie got it wrong. *Jaw-cracking yawn*

    What’s actually worth a little bit of discussion is this business of “inclusion” and “exclusion” that the critics and pundits on Paula’s link are trying to work their way through. For the most part, they’re using “Knocked Up” as a positive example (inclusive), and “Juno” as a negative example (exclusive). In fact, I agree that one of the wonderful things about the Apatow ouvre is its “inclusivity”–the way even minor characters get to reveal surprising and human details. (Shoop prediction: film historians will one day discuss Judd Apatow’s movies the same way they discuss Preston Sturges movies of the 1940s.) But there’s two points here–1) the “inclusive” part of the movies isn’t what’s funny. It’s sweet, surprising, and often quite wonderful, absolutely. But not FUNNY. Funny very seldom has anything to do with sweet–somebody has to slip on the banana peel, experience the embarrassing bodily function, or be put in his or her place. We laugh with characters often, but at the same time, we’re generally laughing AT someone else. Someone is ALWAYS excluded. 2) “Knocked Up” isn’t entirely “inclusive” in its worldview, either. How do I know? Because of that scene with Judith Light encouraging the heroine, with regard to the pregnancy, to “take care of it.” It follows the disparaging definition of “exclusivity” on Paula’s link to the letter–the Judith Light character is set up for scorn and ridicule so that the audience can emphathize with the heroine’s choice to keep the baby. Is Apatow being “fair” to the “pro-choice” side in that scene? Not really. Does he have to be? Again, not really–it’s his movie. But we want to be careful before making generalizations about who’s exclusive, who’s inclusive, and “exclusivity equals bad.” It’s a perfectly valid, and when done well, perfectly successfully way of storytelling.

    Getting back to “Juno” v. “Knocked Up” (an artificial comparison, but perhaps useful)–I’d break it down this way. “Knocked Up” is Shakespearean in its expansive worldview and its fully populated cast of people. “Juno” is (Ben) Jonsonian–hearkening back to an artist who treasured erudition, cleverness, and setting up character types to point out how ridiculous some people can be. Oversimplifying–yeah, but it’s a thread, not a thesis. Sure, “Juno” has some wonderfully “human” moments, as I noted in an earlier post, and sure, “Knocked Up” will often “go for the joke.” But in terms of overall “tone,” I’d say the comparisons are pretty fair. Oscar gave the nod to Jonson this time around–not necessarily a bad thing.

  • MaryAnn

    Is Apatow being “fair” to the “pro-choice” side in that scene?

    A filmmaker should not be worrying about being “fair” to politics. But he should be fair to his characters. Apatow isn’t, not with his female protagonist.

  • MBI

    “No, the mother *has opted against it* offscreen. That’s the same thing as pretending the choice doesn’t exist”

    I don’t see how that’s the same thing at all, and in any case, I think there’s a lot suggested in Katherine Heigl’s discomfort with her mother suggesting she have an abortion and get a “real baby” later, at least as much as is suggested by Ellen Page’s discomfort in the abortion clinic scene. I don’t see the difference.

  • MaryAnn

    It’s too important a decision for that particularly movie for it to have happened offscreen.

  • Paula

    I agree with shoop that it’s problematic comparing these movies, but useful. My point in posting the link was to show that there were differing opinions on how effective Juno is in presenting a viable alternative to what can acceptably be seen as KU’s aversion to a discussion about abortion. To those critics, Juno didn’t make a deeper case for keeping the baby because they thought that the case was based on an unconvincing script. They didn’t, as it were, argue that KU was better on the “abortion” issue, just that script-wise, the set up for his world was more convincing because of the way he treated his fringe characters.

    Also: inclusiveness is not “funny”, but that speaks less about the funny in KU given that most of the humor, I thought, was derived from the general awkwardness of the situation — “shopping for baby” stuff and “sex-with-belly” and “make kids play fetch” stuff.

    It was Joanna Kerns, not Judith Light — both 80s TV moms though.

  • shoop

    Thanks for the correction, Paula–I’m usually on point with my 80s TV moms.

  • MBI

    “It’s too important a decision for that particularly movie for it to have happened offscreen.”

    A reasonable position, but I never felt like I didn’t understand why Allison did anything she did in that movie or that her behavior was implausible. Except taking back Seth Rogen, of course. In any case, I still don’t think that’s the same thing as pretending the choice doesn’t exist.

  • Reid Delehanty

    Dear Critic,

    I cannot believe anyone would like such a retched movie. It floats on a river filled with pop culture references,lines filled with esoteric nonsense, and charactars that are painfully underdeveloped. I like Ellen Page(Espically in Hard Candy) and Michael Cera a lot,the other actors as well, and the director. All the blame is on writer/annoying personality Diablo Cody. Her ironic humor nearly filled me with rage and hate that could easily spill out onto my fellow theater goers, who were applauding every line, like trained lapdogs. After viewing this movie, I had to go home and re-watch Funny Games, which is what true alternative cinema is all about.

  • MaryAnn Johanson

    I know, it’s true! What a retched, retched movie.

    Wretched, too.

  • shoop

    While I enjoyed Juno, I can feel Reid’s pain. Someone going to see Juno at this point, sad to say, is not going to get the benefit of an honest audience response, for the most part. There is a “trained lapdog” effect that emerges when enough critical acclaim and overall “buzz” has deemed a film brilliant–a lot of folks will laugh and applaud the one-liners and pop-culture references just to show that they’re as hip and with-it as the title character. That can be annoying for someone trying to enjoy the film at his or her own speed–and really annoying for someone who’s just not enjoying the movie at all. Best bet at this point is to wait for the tail end of the theatrical run when you have a small audience, or for the DVD.

    I also have a quick-cure for too much precious cleverness–something I had to use after about 20 minutes of a random Gilmore Girls episode. After running away screaming, I found I could calm down through the quick application of three 3 Stooges episodes–2 with Curly, 1 with Shemp.

    Finally, while it’s easy and fun to mock the spelling errors of others, keep in mind that you are someone who refers to herself as a “filosopher.” Yeah, I know, the f-f thing, but still.

  • Jurgan

    “Finally, while it’s easy and fun to mock the spelling errors of others, keep in mind that you are someone who refers to herself as a “filosopher.” Yeah, I know, the f-f thing, but still. ”

    I disagree completely. If someone’s trying to form a legitimate argument, then by all means engage him/her on the merits. If, on the other hand (s)he is just trolling, there’s no sense in rising to the bait. That’s one of my favorite things about you, Maryann- you don’t get fazed by hostile counter-criticism and go straight for the snarky response.

  • MaryAnn Johanson

    I welcome honest, thoughful counters to my arguments. I didn’t see that on Reid’s posting. Though I would love to know what kind of artistic/creative license he was taking by dropping the “w” from “retched.”

  • shoop

    Okay–trolls or those who troll (interesting expression, new to me) don’t deserve a straight response. I can go along with that, for the most part. That said, my mini-point is that if you scratch the surface of troll-comments–well, mostly you find more trollishness. But sometimes, trolls touch on interesting points, and I think the “conditioned audience response” is something that a lot of us have experienced at one time or another. There’s a troll on the “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins” thread who touches on something kind of interesting, too, I think–which I might get to eventually.

  • MaryAnn

    Perhaps you’re right about the audience response, but that has absolutely nothing to do with my review, nor does it have to do with the writer of the film.

  • Vivian

    ahaha this movie was TERRIBLE! At least Diablo Cody (ughhh) could get the obscure references correct instead of screwing them up. If teenagers talk like this today, I am so glad I am 30. Also, an ultrasounds technician would NOT make such comments as the hospital could be sued if anything happened and the fmaily decided to say the vengeful tech caused it. UNREALISTIC!

  • Rudy

    Giving my slant on some of the issues raised in this thread:

    Yes the dialogue is unrealistically witty, especially for teen-speak, but it is a film. Imagine a movie with realistic dialogue, it would be full of poorly constructed sentences punctuated with ums and ahs, and pop culture references would be reduced to Justin Timberlake and Ms Spears.

    Regarding the comparison with Knocked Up, I certainly agree that people’s perceptions are coloured (naturally and inevitably) by the accompanying hype and criticism. I would argue that the ‘indie’ status of Juno compared to the more commercial KU, combined with the gender of the respective writers, lead certain people to believe that the former addresses the issue of choice while the latter does not. In both cases I think the filmmakers decided to tackle the issue in subtler ways, probably for two major reasons. First, I’m sure they did not want to alienate potential audience members on either side of the debate (the commercial reason); and second, both films wanted to get on with their plot without getting bogged down in such a weighty issue.

    Personally, I didn’t like the ‘Asian-person-speaks-funny’ joke outside the Women’s health clinic, although the allegedly progressive audience in my local boho cinema thought it was hilarious. Probably because no-one had flagged it as inappropriate in any of the reviews they read, and God forbid anyone think for themselves.

    PS nice blog, and most of the posters are pretty good too!

  • MaryAnn

    Funny how no one complains about the “unrealistic” dialogue of movies like *Pulp Fiction* and *O Brother Where Art Thou?*…

  • shoop

    You could add a whole slew of classic movies to those two, wherein people speak “unrealistically”… “His Girl Friday,” “Citizen Kane,” “One, Two, Three,” “All About Eve”… The key with those films, along with the two examples you gave, is the DIRECTOR. The director creates the world where the screenwriter’s dialogue makes sense, or fails to make sense. The Coens created a movie-movie world in “O Brother” that allowed for stylized (or “unrealistic”) dialogue to work. Tarantino let the audience know from the opening moments that his world was a “Pulp Fiction” world, where people would speak as if cartoon balloons were connected to their mouths. The director tells us where to look and guides us as to how to listen. (I guess sometimes it helps if the director is also at least one of the screenwriters.)

    I think that’s why some folks are divided regarding Jason Reitman’s contribution to “Juno” (Oscar nod, but no DGA nod, for example). What he does, or doesn’t do, is downright subversive–he does NOT create a world where Juno (the character) makes sense, and what’s more, he doesn’t even try. He gives the audience no helpful guide to navigate D. Cody’s often brilliant, frequently funny, and, yes, occasionally annoying verbiage–you pretty much either go with it, or you don’t. Final results?–All the elements of success: huge box office, major Oscar nominations, buzz that’s good for at least another month or so, and a vocal minority backlash complaining of “unrealistic” dialogue. I’m sure all involved with “Juno” are doing, and will do, just fine.

  • [e11even.]

    I’ve never understood what ‘magic’ people are seeing in Juno.
    There is such a phoniness to it. All of these people are so detached from this child, do any one of them relize there is a life inside of this girl? The boyfriend–doesn’t he relize this is his child? The father–doesn’t he relize this is his grandchild?
    (oh, am I spelling ‘realize’ wrong? Are you going to make a cheap stab at me instead of a genuine argument?)
    Even if Juno’s situation is fully accepted & she does experiance the ‘easiest teen pregnancy ever’, the emotional weight s-h-o-u-l-d be incredily heavy. This is her child!
    & if her boyfrind had any decency at all–which the movie implies he does–he would have been far more interested in this child’s growth.
    The only hint ion this movie of that was at the very end–too little too late.

    On the other hand, the story revolving around the adoptive couple was enjoyable & far more deep.

  • MaryAnn

    I think they all realize it’s a child. What makes you think they don’t? Juno makes an incredibly tough decision to see the pregnancy through and give the child up for adoption. Is there only one acceptable way to deal with that, by being “incredibly heavy”? Isn’t it undeniably a human thing to deal with deep emotion by joking about it, by attempting to dismiss it?

    What is “decency”? Sincerely, I’d like to hear how that jibes not only with this film, which deals out a heightened sense of reality and is not intended to be a serious drama, but with real reality. What is indecent about not letting oneself get attached to a fetus that one will have no connection to once its born… or with lying to oneself about getting attached. Either interpretation works here with the boyfriend. These kids are, as happens to many kids in many situations that are related to unexpected pregnancies or not, thrust into an adult situation that they’re not prepared to deal with, and they deal with it as as best they can, by making stuff up as they go along. What’s phony about that?

  • jenn

    Finally watched it this weekend. It was great, the only issue I have is that I think the character of Juno is more of how the writer wishes she was at 16, rather than than how 16yr girls actually are. Not meaning she is trying to be autobiographical, just the character is way too cool and with it. That said, it is much more realistic portrayal of teen girls than Bratz or other similar movie garbage.
    I do think it was Juno who had the crush first on Mark, and that crush is part of the reason she got back together with Blekker. Mark did end up with a crush partly because of the lack of connection with his wife and because Juno is pretty crushable.

  • I loved this movie! When we saw it, I told my husband, I want to be just like Juno and he said, “You are just like Juno!” What a pip he is!

    I guess I was like her a bit in high school, but Juno’s sassiness reminds me most of my friend Tricia. (Geek chicks are cool!)

    I don’t get those people who say that Juno’s character is unbelievable. (I wonder if “those people” might be a little dumb.) (I shouldn’t have said that.)

    And telling the technician off: classic! (Loved it.)

  • shoop

    Yup, you got it all right–we’uns who have the slightest doubt about Juno’s believability–even we’uns who enjoyed the movie–am just stupid, stupid, stupid. All them clever pop cultural references to Soupy Sales and such, well, shoot, that just gets our heads mixed up with too much intelligence, sho’nuff! Us dumb’uns is sorely obliged to you for pointing out our dumbitude and dumbosity.

  • shoop — ouch.

  • shoop

    Too harsh? Sorry. I got a little miffed.

  • Reid Delehanty

    Dear Maryann,

    My use of “Retched” was a simple type-o. And juno still sucks.

    Another complaint: Besides the lame dialouge, the music was equally as bad. It is not just juno, but most teen movies trying to be esoteric and appeal to the hipster crowd. A superior movie to juno, Rocket Science did the same thing. As someone who consider’s himself the target for these movies, I do not want to be pigeon-hold into thinking I only like The clash, Iggy and the stooges, or any other kind of band that is cool only because it does not exist anymore. My one wish is for just once, in a movie like Juno(although I may never want to see another teen comedy), to hear a song from the Wu-Tang Clan, Atmosphere,or any other hip-hop musician. It is now okay in these days for smart people to listen to hip-hop. With people like Talib kweli, mos Def, and others that are less known, like Sage Francis, Mac Lethal, and Aesop rock, as modern day poets, they are more relevant to these times than the Clash.

    Please, Indie movie land, give hip-hop a chance!!!

  • MontyGurl

    Love, love, love this movie. Everyone I know who saw it loved it, and these are people who usually don’t give a rip about the current critical opinion. People always call this movie unrealistic, but I disagree. I don’t talk like Juno or know anyone who talks liked Juno, but I can believe that Juno talks like Juno. If you were to make a movie about me people would complain that no group of teenagers would say things like “swear words are the imaginary product of an arbitrary societal standard”, that girls my age put much more care into their personal appearance than I do, my references to a Jeeves and Wooster PBS miniseries are “strained, at best”, my taste in movies is inconsistent, my music sounds like a generic line-up of inoffensive folk and rock musicians, etc. No, teenage girls don’t do those things, and teenage girls don’t act like Juno, but a teenage girl might.

  • paul

    I saw the movie this week. Juno herself reminds me of the teens I hung out with in high school, which was divided mostly between the debate team and Rocky Horror. Juno is certainly not an average teenager, but for the last 20 years I can speak to personally I’ve always known teens who rejected the slick, commericialized pop culture around us in favor of indie and “retro” interests just as Juno did. As to Juno changing as a character, the point of the movie seemed more about Juno discovering herself and her feelings.

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