Tuesday, July 08, 2008
I finally saw "Juno" last week. I actually intentionally avoided it in theaters, because, and I'm like three quarters serious about this, I didn't want to encourage a positive message about teen pregnancy. I told people that, sort of laughing as I said it, and they all replied "oh, you've got it so wrong, it's not like that at all! It's just a sweet movie!"
Well, ok, first of all, it's not just a sweet movie. It's a bunch of right-wing propaganda.
That out of the way, I did sort of like it. Ellen Page saves the film. Any other actress and I think it would have been unwatchable, all syrupy sweet with disgustingly bad dialogue and probably THE single most unrealistic story I've ever seen on film. But I can sit there and watch Ellen Page all day. She manages to make one the most unbelievable characters I've ever seen, well, believable. And she's damn cute. (And 21! She plays a high schooler, but come on - I'm not some sort of pedophile.)
Jason Bateman is also getting funnier as he gets older. He's got this thing where he's just the tiniest bit sarcastic 100% of the time; he's almost but not quite making fun of his character, and he just seems exasperated with life all the time. He does it with every character he plays, so it's just him, not the script. True, it makes him sort of a one-note actor - all his characters are basically the same - but he always makes me laugh.
But the story of this film is almost offensive in how ridiculous it is, all sunny and easy, making abortion seem like not just the immoral way out, but also the more difficult! There is no legitimate suggestion that teen pregnancy could ever be bad for either the mother or the child (in fact, the one character who does suggest it practically gets her face eaten by Juno's stepmother), let alone society as a whole. And it's an insidious film; it's got a totally conservative pro-life agenda masked as liberal open-mindedness. It's dangerous; one of those things that seeps into collective consciousness without anybody realizing what's happening, including those who otherwise would never subscribe to the film's political point of view. Already we might be seeing some of the film's effects. Nothing I saw in the movie even suggested I should change my feelings that kept me away from it in theaters. If screenwriter Diablo Cody was attempting to simply be non-judgmental, she ended up going so overboard that her script comes off as judgmental anyway - just in the opposite direction as you'd expect. Either way, the script is a failure.
I can't really recommend the film except for those studying propaganda - as that, and intentional or not, it is highly effective. (Don't even argue with me on this - you can't win.)
But I can't wait to see Ellen Page in more films. And Jason Bateman!
Addendum: Yeah, so I'm apparently not very original. But I had read nothing too specific about this movie before watching it - my comments were totally organic. And honestly, I don't really care what Diablo Cody says her intent was or wasn't. If something's there on screen, then it's there. If it isn't, then it isn't. Think about it - say you're watching a comedy and it isn't funny. Would it matter to you if the screenwriter came to your house and said "but it is funny, because I intended it to be!" If intent made any difference whatsoever to a film, then every film would be Casablanca or The Graduate or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Unfortunately, in reality the road to bad filmmaking is paved with good intentions.