Friday, July 9, 2010

Juno: Movie Review


"Juno" can't live up to its undeserving expectations.

The problem with "Juno" is Juno. Juno (Ellen Page) is our main character, a high school teenager that gets pregnant. Shenanigans, as she says, emanate.

I adhere to the school of thought that main characters should be likable, or that we can at least relate to or empathize with in some way, but Juno doesn't inhabit any qualities of a good character.
  2007

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Screenplay by: Diablo Cody

Starring: Ellen Page and Michael Cera
She is not similar to any real high school teenagers, and has that ultra-cool, I'm-smarter-and-better-than-everybody-else vibe that young adults only wish they were like. We are to know that Juno is really, really smart – (just ignore the fact that she accidentally got pregnant) – we can tell by her speech. Unfortunately, the dialogue is not smart writing. It's just pop-culture persiflage and quick witted repartee. It may be funny, but it's not smart - especially when no actual teenagers talk like that.

Then, to hide the fact that Juno is not a complete character, they have her listen to cool, indie music. But someone must have forgotten to tell writer Diablo Cody that listening to cool, indie music does not automatically add dimension or emotion to a character. That's supposed to be done through a character's actions, reactions as they evolve over the course of the film. None of which are demonstrated in Juno. To be clear, for all of the faults with the character of Juno, none of the blame is to be placed on Ellen Page. Unanimously heralded to be the next great actress, that is just a matter of time.

Apart from the lack of an integral character in Juno, the film certainly has some positives. Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons play Juno's step-mother and father. They could very well be the best parents displayed in the teen, pregnancy genre. Janney adds depth and humour to a character that turns out to be not your cliché step-mother; while Simmons adds heart and humour to a father that steers clear of melodrama but can still provide the adjective 'heartfelt' to the film. Also starring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, who are both accomplished actors, their characters are exactly as you expect them to be. Which are fine characters, but they don't provide the platforms for Juno's supposed maturation.

If it weren't for the fact that "Juno" was the recipient of an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for screenwriter Diablo Cody, it would have been forgotten as just a flash-in-the-pan with some funny lines and a young Ellen Page. But just as America fell to the charms of its marketing team, the Academy fell to the charms of another stripper-turned-screenwriter, and we have a sub-par film getting lauded as one of the best ever. "Juno" may have some good acting, and great supporting characters and humour and heart, but from everything pointed above it's lacking too much to be deserving of its Best Original Screenplay win. A year later, the Academy snubbed John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt" – now that's a film with complex, multi-dimensional characters and layers of meaning into a seemingly simple story. "Juno" doesn't even come close to that kind of brilliant writing. (Normally such a comparison can not be made but when they are nominated for the same award and both attempt a multi-meaning story arc with engaging characters the comparison somehow becomes valid but of course not fair).

Watch "Juno" if you like the teen comedy, pregnancy kind of film and enjoy it for what it offers, but don't expect it to live up to its hype.