Thursday, February 21, 2008


Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007) [7]
One of the suprise hits (critically and commercially) of the year isn't some relevatory piece some would like to believe. At its essence though, it's watchable, endearing, and not half bad. The cultural watchdogs would like to think a film about a 16 year old girl deciding to keep her pregnancy makes the film automatically conservative and while it basically is, Reitman and writer Diablo Cody never bring ideology or politics into it. The film works because it eschews this and stays inside the head of Juno, giving a portrait of a young girl going through all the conflicting emotions that a pregnancy would raise. Juno on a more personal track, with Reitman and Cody clearly showing compassion for their main character as well as understating the other characters, especially the young couple yearning for a baby played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. The Garner character especially, with her by-the-book examination of pregnancy wrapped up in an uptight, yuppie exterior, could have easily gone too far into broad or overblown characterization. They are meant to be played as the exact opposite of Juno and while I don't completely buy into it, it serves it's purpose in the story. It's Ellen Page as the title character as well as Michael Cera, playing his standard awkward character, as the boyfriend/father that work well. The two's chemistry and hitting the right notes of the tough to define nature of teenage romance as well as the problems a pregnancy can bring are the bright spots for me. I'm no fan of the show-offy, snarky dialogue Cody pumps out in the first half to two-thirds of the film, but when she actually tones it down and examines these two beyond smart-aleck remarks, it's a very compassionate view of these characters. To me, the first half of the film keeps at bay any real emotional validity in the film or its characters but when Juno lets her guard down, it makes her real for lack of a better word, and validates her character beyond a wise-cracking teenager. This last third of the film is layered with depressive overtones that create a emotional grounding in a the film world that I feel was sorely lacking for a lot of it up to that point. This more plaintive, somber nature of actually examining the realities of the situation save the film from being a bunch of overblown hype. By it's essence, the end is inherently conservatively but there's nothing wrong with that as long as it succeeds. Reitman, while doing nothing more than workmanlike direction for most, frees up a little more at the end and actually give the film some personality beyond its script. The performances hit their spots when they're supposed to. The songs of Kimya Dawson, plaintive and somber like the film, work much better in the film than they would on their own. It all makes a nice little film that is sincere and likable and good but not great.

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