Saturday, January 5, 2008

Juno. Not like the city in Alaska.

I caught Juno finally the other night. The writer, Diablo Cody, had a sort-of sex blog for years, which was vulgar and funny, and one of the first blogs I read. (At least, one of the first I read that was called a "blog"; we had these things back before the Internet was a cultural hub. They were called "vanity websites".) Anyway, nomadic blogger is she, I think she's currently on MySpace, after having left there and trying blogspot and some other locales.

A lot of the dialogue is distinctly Cody which is good on the one hand, but which I think probably reads funnier than it sounds. And it's not as edgy or offbeat as it once was: "The Gilmore Girls" used a similar (far less vulgar) style during its run.

But this is nitpicking.

You know, back in MY day, when we did a movie about teen-pregnancy, the girl got an abortion and everyone lived ick-ily ever after. (Seriously, movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Last American Virgin were grotesque. Increasingly so to the degree they reflected reality.)

So there's a certain poetic irony in the plot of Juno, where the girl starts out pregnant, and it's really only because she's something of an iconoclast that she decides to keep the baby. And really, while the movie doesn't labor the point, it's hard to pull back from that story without observing that the "safe" option--the one that preserves your reputation and allows you to pretend nothing has happen--is the one heavily encouraged today.

Clearly director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) and Cody "get" what it means to be transgressive at a fundamental level. It's not dressing weird, or listening to a particular kind of music: It's going against The Way Things Are. (This is seen in Smoking as well.)

One of the ways this movie succeeds this season is by NOT eschewing traditional narrative structures, satisfying resolutions, and trying to be "artsy". It could be a run-of-the-mill film but for its refusal to take any of the easy outs. At the same time, it doesn't mock you for wanting some sort of happiness, some sort hope or optimism.

So, I liked it. As The Boy opined, it could've had a few more jokes. The first act takes a while to pick up. But this is a solid flick.

The casting is perfect by the way, from Ellen Page as the pregnant girl, Michael Cera as her best friend/impregnator, Allison Janney and J. K. Simmons as Juno's stepmother and father, Olivia Thirby as the best friend, and Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as the couple who wants to adopt Juno's baby.

A special nod to the last two: Garner plays a woman on the edge, she's controlling and desperate, but conveys a seriousness that wins us over; Bateman plays the reluctant father, cool, but chasing his youth (at 39) who forms a special bond with Juno.

This is a movie that's easy to like and easier to like the more you reflect on it.

Anyway, nice job Diablo et al. I hope to see much more from all of you in the future.


  1. I can never take a movie seriously when a cheesy sitcom star has a serious role. I just can't do it. I just think in my head "With Jason Bateman as the Beaver." Actually the only time it works is when Alyssa Milano is the beaver.

  2. Did you know that Scott Baio is 46 and he is still not married.

  3. Neither is Gary Coleman but nobody cares.

  4. Sitcom stars have a tough life especially the kid stars. Can't you just see Robert Young talking to Lauren Chapin on the set of Father knows best.

    Lauren Chapin: Mr. Young I just don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
    Robert Young: Why kitten, you could be anything you want. A doctor,or a lawyer, why you could even run for president.
    Lauren Chapin: Do you really think so?
    Robert Young: Actually, no. You see I can see the future and you are going to grow up to be a junkie whore.
    Lauren Chapin: Gee whiz that doesn't sound so good.
    Robert Young: Yes you were born before your time. They call it the Amy Winehouse effect. It will be very popular in the year 2008.

  5. Alyssa did a good job of separating herself from the child star thing.

    Jason Bateman was in a short-lived series called "It's Your Move", in between his more famous ones. It was fascinating for the time--kind of cutting edge--because amidst the cheesy sitcom framework, his character was nearly sociopathic.

    I liked it but it didn't last.

    Anyway, how can you look at Bateman in this, in Dodgeball, The Kingdom, The Break-Up and not respect that he plays a different character in all of them? It often takes me a while to realize it's him.

  6. Scott Baio--did he get a show out of it?

    Peter Knight did, right?

  7. Yeah, see, I give points to the child stars that make it. The Howards, Billy Mumy, Jason Bateman at least (dunno about his more-famous-at-one-point sister, though I recommend her in the remake of Bucket of Blood, aka The Death Artist).

    Michael Anthony Hall goes back to his nerd roots.


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