Saturday, April 19, 2008

Everybody Loves Juno... except me
For months now all I've heard, when asking the generic question, "Seen any good movies lately?" is "Have you seen Juno? Oh my gosh! It's so awesome. Seriously, one of the best movies I've seen in a long time." I usually just turn around quietly and wish I hadn't asked the question. I saw Juno several months ago, and I'm pretty sure I didn't like it. This may sound a bit Obama-esque, but I'm not quite sure why I didn't like it.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I could barely understand Juno, the main character, and her quirky band of whiz kid friends. I wanted to ask them, "Is there a reason you're talking like what seems like a teenager designed by a committee of adults that have researched youth by watching MTV around the clock?" The dialogue was clever... too clever. And where did all this cleverness lead us? Well, the most annoyingly intelligent teenager ever to grace the silver screen brought us the warm tale of teen pregnancy, marital strife, divorce, constant references to unborn children as "it" or "the thing", and overbearingly child-obsessed suburbanites. It doesn't get much more clever than that!!

I kept asking myself if I was supposed to be happy with the way things turned out in Juno. Everyone else I knew walked out of the film pretty excited about the way it ended. I just kept thinking, "That's it? I'm supposed to feel good about that? I'm supposed to think it's great that the girl gave up 'the thing' for adoption to the most emotionally disturbed character on the screen?" But hey, at least she didn't get the abortion!

Don't get me wrong, Juno is funny, light-hearted, and complex. Ellen Page is great as the main character, and her Father uttered one of the funniest lines I've ever heard in a movie ("I'm gonna punch that kid in the wiener the next time I see him."), but let's face it, teenagers aren't that clever. Most of them are pretty un-clever. Instead of uttering quick quip after super quick quip, most teens I know are busy exclaiming, "Dude, check out my new ringtone!"

The movie does demonstrate that there is a frightening stupidity in our society about children, what a blessing they are, and how wondrous the path to new life can be. Kids in this day are objects of consumption and convenience, and that's pretty sad.

So, I thought Juno was clever (cue annoying indie song). It was cool for shizz, but in a totally hamburger phone kind of way. In other words, it was so clever that it almost made me forget how stupid it was. I liked the movie. I found it enjoyable on the surface, but underneath it seemed shallow to me. There were a couple of times when I felt like I was watching a bad action movie or a cheesy horror film. I wanted to yell at the screen, "Oh, yeah right!! Like that would ever happen!!" Then I'd look around to see if anybody was with me, only to find that the film had found a captive audience, believing every over-intelligent smirk.

In conclusion: Teenagers aren't that smart, and they don't really talk that way! Plus, kids are good, and they aren't "things." The end.


Craig said...

I would be lying if I said that I did not enjoy watching the movie. I enjoyed the cleverness and especially the humor. But as far as the message, I feel the same way. We now start selling Juno at Starbucks, and the other day I overheard two moms talking about it. One asked if the movie was good and if it was inappropriate for her kids, which were 9 and 11. The other quickly replied that the movie is "very cute" and recommended it to her family. I think it's odd that even the parents bypass the simulation of real life, and are satisfied with the fact that there was no abortion and that makes pre-martial sex ok because things can always turn out for the "good." perhaps her children will come to the same conclusion.

Stephen said...

what's up Steve? :) I miss you buddy...
Anyways, my fiance is borrowing my computer so I'm forced to use my old laptop that I gave to my roommate to grade papers. And it had your blog bookmarked and a smiled tugged at the corners of my mouth as I realized that I love the quips and quibbles of the great Steve Holt!! err Hayes!!
On to the post at hand. I will be upfront and say I loved the movie. While I think that you have a very valid point that it treats premarital sex very lightly, I think in the end it is definitely not an endorsement. It is obvious that Juno encounters a lot of difficulties because of the pregnancy. And it could serve as a warning to the audience that she becomes pregnant after only having sex once. But, all in all, for a Hollywood movie, the morals were decent. In other words, it is NOT a movie for kids. Only adults who can judge the morality of the movie should be watching it.
Finally, about the dialog, I think you may sell high school kids a little short. Having worked with lots of them myself, I have run into a few that are actually pretty witty. Sure, Juno is a bit over the top, but it's a movie, they're going to make her a little more witty than a real person. Real people are boring. Except for you Steve :)

Doug Hess said...

Hey, Steve. I think Stephen makes a valid point about the dialog. No one is as witty as they appear in TV shows and movies. It would be unbearable if the dialog were "real" as opposed to good in service of the story. Every one--adults included--are idealized in scripts, and I'm deeply grateful.

I tried really hard to lower my expectations before watching this movie. Every year some little movie that no one expects anything from comes out and it's hailed as the greatest thing ever, and every time I'm disappointed.

So, determined not to get sucked into the hype again, I watched it with as clean a mental slate as I could. The result was that I liked it. I've never had a child, so I don't know the emotional side of things, but I can certainly see why Juno might want to distance herself from a child she couldn't keep. We can argue about whether the results were realistic, but I get why she remained disassociated with the child.

And I would have thought you would have been happy that she dismissed the idea of an abortion. She did the hard thing and carried the baby to term and cared deeply that the child would have a good home. I thought that was a good and important message. No?

If you can manage to divorce yourself from the hype, I think you may come to enjoy it on a more superficial level. Then again, you may not care enough about liking a movie, which is probably healthy. ;-)


Steve Hayes said...


You make some good points. I think you're right about the dialogue, and I can see what you're saying. There were some things that bothered me about the movie, but I definitely thought it was clever and well written. I just find it funny that folks will watch an action movie and think the action is over the top and unrealistic, but they don't seem to have the same standard for dialogue. Doesn't mean it's not entertaining, but it also doesn't mean it's true to life. As you said, that may be a good thing. Afer all, who wants to watch people talk like they do in real life. Stumbling over words, mumbling and mis-speaking don't make for good drama.

I am happy that Juno didn't get an abortion. That was not my point at all. My only point was that many people will dismiss the sadness of a 16 year old giving her child to an obviously unhealthy suburbanite simply because "at least she didn't have an abortion." While I'm happy that she didn't have an abortion, I'm not necessarily happy with the way things turned out instead. Not sure there were better options for Juno, but when I see a situation without any good options it doesn't make me excited about the outcome. It makes me sad. That's not the overwhelming sentiment that I was getting from people about the way this film turned out.

Again, it's not that I didn't like the movie. It had great performances and witty dialogue, and there was something pure about it. But if I take out all the witty banter, great performances and simple purity of the film and look at the harsh reality of the situation, it makes me sad. I'm sad that teenagers go through such confusing times in such a confusing culture. I'm sad that suburbanites leave their wives in favor of their unfulfilled wonder lust. I'm sad that kids are having kids and that they don't even see children as beautiful gifts. I'm sad that the only way some women can feel fulfilled is by having unhealthy longings that only "purchasing" a kid can cure.

In light of all of that I just came away from the film sad (which was the complete opposite of how everyone I knew felt about the movie). I know I'm weird, and it's probably just me. I could probably watch it tomorrow and feel different. Those were just my thoughts about the thing.

Glad to hear from you, friend. I hope you're well and I miss you guys.

Doug said...

Thanks for the reply, Steve-o. I understand what you're saying. This is a scary time to be a kid, and that recent scandal in a Massachusetts high school only drives that point home.

If it's true that it's becoming okay to get pregnant in high school or outside of marriage, that's obviously a bad thing and completely unfair to the children who will most likely grow up in an unhealthy environment.

But I guess the one good thing that has come out of this is that teens who become pregnant are no longer ostracized the way they once were. Is it a good thing that they got pregnant? No. Is it a good thing that their lives are no longer ruined as a result of one mistake? Yeah, I think it is.

Great to hear from you, as always.