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.