Monday, December 31, 2007

Juno: Over-Cool. But Over-Cool is Still Cool.

Juno is too cool for its own good, but don't take that as a criticism; Rather, take it a a necessary warning that will allow you to enjoy it anyway.

I saw an interview with Juno's screenwriter (Diablo Cody) and director (Jason Reitman) a while back. These were two cool cats.

She was particularly cool; all inked up, dressed in an outfit that screamed SECONDHAND STORE at the top of its lungs. I was already on guard against "over-cool" before going into this movie, so it's pretentiousness didn't belly-punch me as hard as it otherwise would have. But it still gave my tensed-up gut a good wallop.

The first "over-cool" was the soundtrack. My ears are still angry with me. Honestly, I know I already used the word "pretentious" in this review, but I can't think of another word to describe it, and I don't have enough time to go to right now, cause I have a New Year's Eve party to go to. Nobody listens to this crap unless they want everyone overhearing them listening to it to think they're- well, cool. It was distractingly bad. But it DID effectively set the mood, which was borderline-playful, borderline-serious.

Complaint Number 2: the dialogue.

Some movies have cool dialogue, and they let you just sit back and notice it. This one was so overboard with it that you barely had time to notice anything else! Which is too bad, because there was a lot else to be appreciated in this smartly-written movie. Such as the phenomenal acting. Or the simple humanism displayed in the protrayal of everyone involved in this difficult teen-pregnancy situation.
The dialogue was brilliant and smart and hip, and WAY over the top in it's brilliant, smart hip-ness. It felt like the writer had a notebook of cool phrases and words she had compiled while eavesdropping on modern-day teenagers, and then constructed the screenplay around that.

But so what? It was entertaining to take in, and I'm way past the days when I go to the movies for realism.

Now when you watch a movie like this, to enjoy it, you have to check your politics at the door. Because whether you're pro-life or pro-choice, you're going to have your viewpoint get a little made-fun-of at some stage in the game. (Like the lone abortion protestor outside the clinic, chanting "All babies want to be borned"; countered moments later by the dirtbag attendant inside the clinic who deadpans the praises of flavored condoms to our teen protagonist.)

But when you're writing a "cool" movie, it's not cool to take a stand, even when your main character, by necessity, does just that. Some might call this a little cowardly; I might be inclined to agree. But this movie wants your money, not your vote. Maximum profits mean you have to appeal to both sides of the underlying issue.

As far as the acting goes, if you're looking for Oscar contenders, take your pick. My personal favorites were J.K. Simmons as Juno's Dad, Jason Bateman as the reluctant prospective adoptive father of her baby, and Allison Janney as her stepmother, who loves the teen she bickers with day in and day out. And Juno herself (Ellen Page), of course, carries the movie even better than she carries around her prosthetic gut.

I guess the bottom-line reason I liked this movie so much was because, despite the ridiculous vernacular used, the exchanges here were heartwarming and tender and realistic. This isn't YOUR family you're watching, this is the family that produced the odd-ball Juno, and I was convinced that they were real. They never condoned her pregnancy, but they never disowned their daughter, and they acted exactly like what I would have expected that family to act like. It was fun to watch, I never once felt preached to (which is especially commendable for a movie with a theme like this one), and I was able to sit back and watch realistic people cope with a tough situation, resulting from what they admitted were unwise choices.

I give Juno a 7 out 0f 10, and if Diablo Cody will change her name back to whatever her mother named her and write me a movie with maybe half the clever slang in it next time, she might just earn a 9. Honestly, ma'am, you had 3 movies worth of "cool" in that little notebook of yours, why did you go and waste it all on one single screenplay?


andrea said...

you are such a good writer, i can no longer sit by and allow you to make a key grammatical error.
"its" has no apostrophe unless it's a contraction. when it's possessive, like "its pretentiousness" or "its super cool hipness", there is no apostrophe.
just cuz i heart ya baby. and also because i'm anal.

HappyBack said...

Ain't nothing wrong with anal.

tifferbob said...

I agree, just watched Juno this week and my thoughts were about along the same as yours.