Saturday, August 15, 2009

Juno (2007)

Wow, two entries on newer movies in a row. Anyway, here's the story of Juno, a film that is also torn apart by it's overly forced script.

Ellen Page plays Juno, a quirky outcast who finds herself pregnant by her bandmate/boyfriend Bleeker (Michael Cera). She decided to give the child to a middle class couple, only to discover that they have their own issues.

Ok, let's talk about the script, since it got most of the attention when the film came out. The script, written by Diablo Cody, lacks any sort of naturalness or humanity to it, at least for the first part of the film. It's entirely too wrapped up in being overly quirky, with horrible lines like "Honest to blog?" and "That's one doodle that can't be undid, homeskillet". Such attention is paid to making Juno into a sarcastic, concentrated lump of quirkiness that she becomes a cliche and not very believable. She has a hamburger phone, she listens to 70's rock music, she collects old thrown away furniture, and she speaks like a 30+ year old screenwriter with something to prove. She treats her pregnancy like one might treat a stray cat following them around with no sense of panic, fear, or urgency, she handles it all like it's nothing which just doesn't come across as resembling anything like the real world. In addition, none of the characters seem to have their own original voice, instead every actor on screen seems to have become a mouthpiece for Diablo Cody's glorification of the high school outsider that leaves little doubt in my mind that Juno is some sort of idealized version of High School Cody. And thank God for Ellen Page for making her dialogue seem at least somewhat believable, because in the hands of a lesser actress, the character who would have been a complete and total joke ruining any any good that is in the movie.

Thankfully the second half of the movie tones it down a bit and the characters are allowed to take a form that resembles actual people as an actual plot develops.

But if there's any standout in the movie, it's Jennifer Garner who plays Vanessa, one half of the couple hoping to adopt Juno's baby. She gives her character such vulnerability, due to a past experience where she was unable to get a child because the mother backed out, that you want her to get Juno's baby because she plays it as if it's the most important thing in the world to her. The scene where she feels Juno's belly hoping to feel the baby kick has you hoping and willing for that baby to kick. It's a great performances that was ultimately overlooked, probably because she doesn't have any showy dialogue or overly emotional "Oscar moment' scenes.

Overall, the film is similar to Moulin Rouge in that the first part of the film is simply too much, too much forced quirk, too much "Look at how different I am", and too much Diablo Cody patting her quirky self on the quirky back with her quirky hand. But once you get past that, and the film mellows out, it becomes a fairly good movie that deals with a current issue affecting the world from a unique perspective.

Plus, the cast is uniformly great, with Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thrilby, and Alison Janney delivering great supporting work. Unfortunately for anyone familiar with the brilliant Arrested Development, Michael Cera is essentially doing a retread of George-Michael Bluth, which he actually seems to have built his career upon.

So as a whole, Juno is a nice little movie, no more, no less.

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