Movie Mind Says: Rent It
If You Like This You Should Watch: Garden State, The Ex (aka Fast Track)
Better Than: Smart People
Worse Than: American Beauty
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner
After a long string of testosterone-laden films I finally gave my wife the pick of rentals for a day. Much to my dismay, she came up with Juno. I had avoided it for a long time, but its viewing was inevitable, especially after all the awards and buzz. I knew there would be a day where it and I would cross paths. Obviously I lived to tell about it, but I am still trying to wrap my head around how I feel overall. An easy summation would be to call this film Knocked Up for girls. Unfortunately, I think that may only be half the truth.
Ellen Page certainly earned all the praise she received playing Juno MacGuff, a high school junior who gets knocked-u…excuse me, impregnated, by her slacker band-friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). The film takes us through what it’s like being a high school girl who thought she had everything figured out about life, but realizes there is far more to learn.
Even if you didn’t watch the Academy Awards or read anything about the stripper-to-award-winning writer-tale that accompanied it, my male readers would probably need all of 4 minutes to determine that this was a film written by a woman, for women. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course. It takes gall and a lot of faith in the viewing public to broach this subject in a mainstream manner and especially to do it in a comedic fashion. Teen pregnancy is something that most of us don’t want to consider let alone watch on the big screen. This film may have irked some to the extent that it borders on glorification of an unfortunate situation, but otherwise I thought it was clever, witty, and emotional enough to carry me through. I am not going to brood over it like the critics did, but it was a very good film. It most certainly is even better for the female audience.
I don’t think it was done in an evil way, but the writer’s perspective of this situation was unabashedly looked at from a woman’s la-la land. First there is Juno’s father Mac, played by J.K. Simmons. While most of his prior notable roles include the hard-case newspaper boss from Spiderman, Jonah Jameson, he takes an incredibly softer role here and is wonderful in it. Wonderful, if the goal was to build a hip, modern-day dad with no flaws, that is. See, while he is happily remarried and lives by extremely modest amenities, they do nothing to downplay his openness and understanding of his daughter’s situation. When informed by Juno about the bun in the oven, he barely expresses disappointment in his daughter and immediately takes the supportive role. He even questions the “abilities” of the baby’s father before commenting on his daughter’s actions…certainly a noble portrayal but not one that is realistic for many dads out there. Correct me if I’m wrong, but how many dads would not have even experienced an elevated heart rate upon hearing that news?
The next example of an overly feminine touch is the bumbling baby-daddy, Bleeker. He is innocent, vulnerable, and basically drawn out to be a mere patsy in the whole situation. Juno on the other hand, is a sharp, witty, and quirky girl who somehow manages to have it almost all together under the most trying of circumstances. She is the young modern-day woman, albeit a teen outcast, at only 16 years old. It was her decision to take advantage of poor Bleeker who everyone in the film can’t believe “had it in him”.
The most obvious example of the overly feminine touch is Cody’s portrayal of Jason Bateman’s character, Mark Loring. Mark is the husband of Vanessa (Garner) who will become the adoptive parents of Juno’s baby. He is painted as a heartless creep who is stuck in a sell-out-hell of a music career. His wife is so needy for a child that it just makes him seem that much more evil for not wanting one. I think Diablo Cody drew him up as a combination of the worst patrons who used to stick dollar bills in her g-string at the Diamond Gold Club or wherever her past calling was. He is a manipulative, disgrace of a man who nearly commits statutory rape and has no qualms about leaving his wife high and dry in the most important time of her life. Boy, those guys must have been bad tippers, Diablo.
Sorry for getting too cynical here, but I did have an open mind with this film. I also thought it was done really well. It is better than 90% of the studio garbage that comes out nowadays. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have issues with the portrayal of the male characters. Listen to me…I sound like a heated feminist who get all riled up about women being used only as sex objects! Maybe this is merely payback to all the male-centric films and accompanying characters. I thought Knocked Up provided a little fairer perspective of both gender sides, even though the humor was clearly written by men and for men. I feel that while the humor in Juno was obviously for the women in the audience, the roles were just as one-sided. I guess no other male critics had the nards to call this a “chick flick”, but I will.
Interesting Cameo Appearance: Rainn Wilson (Mr. Dwight Schrute, Jim Halpert’s antithesis on NBC’s The Office, and proprietor of Shrute’s Beet Farm in rural Scranton, PA) as Rollo, a quirky convenience store clerk who is a little too nosy for his own good.
Vanessa Loring: Your parents are probably wondering where you are.
Juno MacGuff: Nah… I mean, I’m already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?
Mac MacGuff: Hey there, big puffy version of Junebug!
Juno MacGuff: You should’ve gone to China, you know, ’cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.
Mac MacGuff: Did you see that coming?
Bren: Yeah… but I was hoping she was expelled, or into hard drugs.
Mac MacGuff: That was my first instinct too. Or a DWI… anything but this!
Rollo: That ain’t no etch-a-sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, homeskillet.
Juno MacGuff: I could like, have this baby and give it to someone who like totally needs it.
Leah: You should look in the PennySaver.
Juno MacGuff: They have ads for parents?
Leah: Yeah! ‘Desperately Seeking Spawn.’
Rollo: You better pay for that pee-stick when you’re done with it. Don’t think it’s yours just because you marked it with your urine!
Juno MacGuff: Yeah, I’m a legend. You know, they call me the cautionary whale.
Mac MacGuff: Next time I see that Bleeker kid I’m going to punch him in the wiener.
Mac MacGuff: Thanks for having me and my irresponsible child over your house.
Bren: Doctors are sadists who like to play God and watch lesser people scream.
Juno MacGuff: Oh, and she inexplicably mails me a cactus every Valentine’s Day. And I’m like, “Thanks a heap coyote ugly. This cactus-gram stings even worse than your abandonment.”
Juno MacGuff: I could so go for like a huge cookie right now, with like, a lamb kabob simultaneously.
Juno MacGuff: Wow your shorts are like especially gold today.
Paulie Bleeker: My mom uses color safe bleach.
Juno MacGuff: Go Carol.
Juno MacGuff: I named my guitar “Roosevelt”-not Ted, Franklin. You know, the cute one, with polio.
Paulie Bleeker: You seem to be getting pregnanter these days.
Mark Loring: Vanessa gave me my own room for all my stuff.
Juno MacGuff: She gave you… your own room in… in your whole house? For your… for your stuff? Wow, she’s got you on a long leash, Mark.
Mac MacGuff: You don’t even remember to give Liberty Bell her breathing meds
Juno MacGuff: God that was one time! And she did not die if you recall.