Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Alaskan Diversion

I know, I know. Lately this is becoming just a movie review blog. But these things go in spurts. I'll return to my usual lack of focus very shortly, I'm sure (or I could start a movie-review-only blog so that I'd have absolutely nothing to write about here).

But for now, Juno. Director Jason Reitman's quirky little picture on a screenplay by Diablo Cody has been getting rave reviews. I even had another pilot with whom I was flying a week or so ago give the film a thumbs-up. (Pilot-types' recommendations can normally be reflexively rejected with extreme prejudice, as they might like to say, but I decided not to let one Republican undo the work of a phalanx of sensible critics.) The previews show an adorable, precocious 16-year-old girl with offbeat sensibilities coping, with the help of her humorously blunt parents, with what seems like a most inconvenient pregnancy. It makes for an odd mixture: pretty serious and heavy subject matter dealt with rather flippantly, the matter made quietly humorous by its having most of the weighty aspects either carefully sanitized or scrubbed away entirely.

That's not necessarily a suicidal strategy for dealing with the topic, though, as personally I would shy away from a grim documentary about teen pregnancy, and I can't believe I'm alone in that inclination. The title character, Juno, is played by winsome newcomer Ellen Page, who is letter-perfect for the role. Add in veteran actors Allison Janney and J. K. Simmons (most notable to me as the psychologist Emil Skoda in the early years of Law and Order--my nominee for best character achieved with the least screen time) and you have a can't-lose front line. The other supporting parts are all ably handled, but it's these three main characters who get the screen time and deliver the goods.

I enjoyed the movie and I recommend it to whomever is interested, but I had my gripes as well. It's hard to feel very good about the movie's outcome when the boy by whom she becomes pregnant simply skates off into the rest of his life without any acknowledgment of his misstep or of any responsibility incumbent upon him by way of his actions (Jesus! I sound like some foaming, pious halfwit at a Huckster rally). In fact, everyone is complicit in keeping the information from his parents, and the two kids use a pretty grave chapter in their lives as a springboard into a real relationship. OK, it's just a story, and this makes a framework on which the details can be hung, but to me it's like building a comedy around a monk setting himself on fire. It's just not a funny subject matter, no matter how well-written the details are, and I feel a little guilty for liking it, almost like laughing secretly at someone's stutter. It feels a little unclean. And lastly, the music seems gently inane, like a slightly-too-late-to-the-party attempt to be hip. The vapidity of the closing duet nearly made me get up and leave the theater in a fit of angry nausea. I would have wished for a house to fall on the two lovebirds, except that Juno is so adorable.

Grade: B+


CyberKitten said...

I liked Ellen Page from Re:Genesis. Even then I thought she had lots of potential.

I might check this out when it comes up on pay-by-view.

Just got back from Cloverfield. It ROCKED!

wunelle said...

I've been curious about Cloverfield. I'll have to check it out.

GreenCanary said...

I loved Juno. I wished she were a real person and that she lived near me so that I could make her be my friend.

wunelle said...

Just so long as you two don't sing duets...

GreenCanary said...

But that's the whole point! The singing's the best part!!