Thanks to a pair of passes acquired at the company Yankee swap, Jm and I caught this two weekends ago (busy life = untimely blogging). I was interested in seeing if the film warranted the Oscar it won for best original screenplay. I haven’t seen the other films that were in contention, but I can say that this is one of the more original stories Hollywood has produced recently. Though, this doesn’t say much about the level of quality Hollywood strives to achieve.
Juno is a typical high school student, not popular or an outcast, just another face in the crowd with her own quirks. One restless night, she decides to sleep with her friend Paulie Bleeker and ends up pregnant. The rest of the film deals with her decision to carry the baby to term and have another couple adopt it. What could have been a trite teen comedy or drama ended being a surprisingly cute, insightful story driven by well crafted characters.
What stood out the most was the portrayal of Juno’s parents; you can see the weight of their years in their eyes and actions. They have spent the better part of their lives as pragmatists, doing the tasks that would keep their lives going. When Juno announces her pregnancy to them, there is no forced drama, no shouting or contrived confrontations. Her father, played by the brilliant and underrated J.K. Simmons, simply says he thought she was a better person than this. You can see in his eyes that she has broken his heart, but he knows angry reproaches won’t change the reality of the situation. His little girl is pregnant, and he has to make sure things end as best as possible.
Ellen Page skillfully plays the part of the wise cracking Juno, a girl remarkably mature for her age but just as naive and self-absorbed as her peers. She routinely misses the emotional clues her friend Paulie and adoptive father-to-be Mark send leading to some painful lessons about relationships. Paulie, played by Michael Cera, is also remarkably insightful as the shy boy who can’t seem to find the way to express his love for Juno and the pain her indifference to his feelings hurts him.
The writing is charming, funny, and does manage to avoid most of the stereotypes seen in teen comedies and dramas. However, it still suffers from a common flaw; at times, the writer, Diablo Cody, tries too hard to express that despite her age, she “gets teens” and has unlocked the great mysteries of their lives and thoughts. These truths are slightly humorous but remarkably trite and shoved in the audience’s face. Compared to the subtle and truly insightful moments of the script, one has to wonder if one last editing session might have excised these scenes.
While this was a refreshing story, I don’t know if I would have paid to see this film. I would like to see more films like this made; however, it spoke to me more as a testament to the depths of mediocrity Hollywood story telling has sunk to rather than being a brilliant masterpiece of writing. Would I recommend this films to others? Yes, it has enough warmth and charm to merit a viewing, but is it something you can wait to catch on cable.