Monday, February 04, 2008

The Problem with Juno

. . . is, well, Juno.

Earlier this evening I came across a review of the film Juno. It’s from the World Socialist Web Site – which, incidentally, has a fantastic archive of film reviews – and is written by the very knowledgeable and articulate Hiram Lee. I appreciate and resonate with Lee’s perspective on the film, one that I saw about a month ago.

I admit that I found Juno likable enough, but also somewhat disposable. I mean, nothing from it really stayed with me. And like Lee, I found the film’s biggest problem to be the character of Juno herself, and for the reasons that Lee cites.

I notice that Juno’s been nominated for “Best Picture” at this year’s Academy Awards. If it wins this award it will be a travesty. Indeed, I’m not convinced that it deserves any of the awards its been nominated for!

Oh, and if you want a travesty that’s already transpired, look no further than Sean Penn’s film Into the Wild not being nominated for “Best Picture” or Best of-much-of-anything for that matter (except “Best Supporting Actor”). What’s the Academy thinking?!

Anyway, here are some excerpts from Hiram Lee’s review of Juno. (NOTE: I’ve added the links within this review.) Feel free to share your own thoughts by leaving a comment at the end of this post.


Excerpts from
Juno: An “Apolitical” Film about Teen Pregnancy
By Hiram Lee
World Socialist Web Site
February 4, 2008

Juno, the new film from director Jason Reitman, has been lavished with praise and awards. Two weeks ago, it received Academy Award nominations in several categories: best picture, best director, best actress and best original screenplay. And like most of the movies nominated for best picture this year, it is not very good.

Juno is a comedy about teen pregnancy and adoption, but not a social satire, properly speaking. It is no Miracle at Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges, 1944). While there are countless jokes in the film, none of them shed much light on the subject matter. Instead, Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody inject crack after crack into their story almost at random. The humor is largely imposed on the events, not drawn from exploring the real-life contradictions and relations that such events might generate. It would have been second nature to a Sturges or a Jacques Tati to uncover the absurd or ridiculous possibilities of the situation itself.

“I actually see the movie as completely apolitical,” Reitman told in a recent interview. This stance, in itself a political position, also says a great deal about the film. One gets the impression the director has made a point of not stepping on anyone’s toes. He has, consequently, produced a toothless and evasive work that doesn’t challenge anyone or anything.

. . . Perhaps the film’s greatest flaw is the character of Juno herself; she may in fact be the film’s least genuine element. She is quirky, like so many characters we’ve seen in this sort of comedy. We know this because she frequently has an unlit pipe stuck in her mouth, listens to The Stooges and has a telephone shaped and painted like a hamburger. Juno refuses to give a straight answer to any question put to her. Instead, every line out of her mouth is a joke, a quip or, worse, a zinger. “Being pregnant makes me pee like Seabiscuit,” she says at one point. In the same scene she points out the difference between Presidents Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt: “Franklin was the hot one with polio.” This all becomes tedious rather quickly.

Ultimately, Juno is not a real living and breathing human being so much as she is a contrivance, a mouthpiece for screenwriter Diablo Cody’s one-liners. It’s disconcerting, but not in an interesting way, to hear the screenwriter’s adult (or quasi-adult) humor and vocabulary emerge from 16-year-old Juno. The teenager can be heard to say in one scene, “I’m telling you I’m pregnant and you’re shockingly cavalier.” The words simply do not fit in her mouth.

To read Hiram Lee’s review in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Reflections on the Overlooked Children of Men
Pan’s Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience
Reflections on Babel and the “Borders Within”
The New Superman: Not Necessarily Gay, But Definitely Queer
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
Casanova-Inspired Reflections on Papal Power - at 30,000 Ft.
Alexander’s Great Love

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