The guest to join this Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is Elwood Jones, my co-host of Movies and Tea and Game Warp Podcast as he represents his own movie blog, From the Depths of DVD Hell. For reviews of movies that stray away from the mainstream and dive into the obscure, cult and foreign selections, this is the place to go! For this blogathon, he chooses to take a look at 2007’s indie coming of age teen comedy Juno.
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons
Plot: After finding out she is pregnant, high school teen Juno (Page) she soon finds herself face with some tough choices of what to do about her unborn child.
Review: Having been brought to the attention of producer Mason Novick after he discovered her blog about stripping Diablo Cody was almost instantly a hot property first for her memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper and unquestionably when she claimed the Best Screenplay Oscar for her debut script. Of course like anything which is a hot property on it’s release there is always the question as to if they still hold up down the line which in particular was what inspired my own re-watch of this film having watched it when it on its original release but hardly thought about it since while Cody despite being marked as an exciting new voice has struggled to create anything which comes close to her debut script.
Juno is the blueprint of the smart-mouthed hipster teen which Director Jason Reitman wastes little time in establishing as she trades barbs with Rainn Wilson’s sarcastic convenience store clerk, after walking through her town swigging Sunny Delight to Barry Louis Polisar’s “All I Want is You”. Even her pregnancy announcement to best friend / Crush Paulie (Cera) has her dragging a furniture set to his lawn only to drop it on him with such casualness that she might as well be making diner plans. At the same time she is unquestionably the sort of character who only exists in the fictional realm with his smart mouth and retro obsessions and certainly with the numerous smart mouth teens which followed in the films wake, as well as a string of teen pregnancies labelled “The Juno Effect” by Time magazine after 17 students at a Gloucester, Massachusetts high school became pregnant which many accused this film and Knocked Up released in the same year of glamorizing teenage pregnancy though how the later could be accused of such a thing is unclear, more so because none of the cast are close to high school age. What makes Juno stand out though is unquestionably Ellen Page who’d prior to this film already caused waves for her pedophile punishing antics in Hard Candy and here really made the character her own as she influenced many of the key details for the character such as her hair as well as the soundtrack being heavy on Kimya Dawson as she felt that this is what Juno would choose to listen to.
Soundtrack wise there’s a mixture of hipster folk from the aforementioned Kimya Dawson and her old band the Mouldy Peaches and a couple of Belle and Sebastian tracks mixed in with a some retro tracks from Mott the Hoople and a Sonic Youth cover of the Carpenters “Superstar” which became one of the selling points of the soundtrack. Largely its just background music which never seems to gel with the film as more often battles for your attention with what’s happening on the screen rather than complementing it. Removed from the film its a fun background music for hangouts, hinging largely on how much you like the abstract tones of Kimya Dawson.
One of the most refreshing aspects to the film though is is how it approaches the subject of teenage pregnancy as Juno is clear from the start that she has no plans to keep the baby with a sobering visit to a Women first clinic broaching a taboo subject which most films wouldn’t touch. Sure the film might not be venturing as deep as Tony Kaye’s “Lake of Fire” but it’s acknowledgement of abortion gives the film much more of a grounding that you would have expected from a film so focused on whitty pop culture influence dialogue. This visit in terms of plotting does serve a purpose as ultimately leading her to Mark and Vanessa to arrange a closed adoption which also forms the real meat of the film as starts to learn more about this couple she is going to be giving her child to.
Seeing this couple develop like our opinions of them over the course of the film is one of the strongest aspects of the film with Vanessa initially coming off the cold only to showing deeper levels of warmth to her character especially with her desire to become a mother. Mark on the other hand still clings onto few traces of rock star ambition that Vanessa allows him to keep in “his room” of their pristine house while he now pays the bills writing jingles for commercials which needless to say plays his character perfectly off Vanessa’s who is seen as the dream crusher initially with Juno and Mark soon bonding over a love of music and horror movies. By the time that Juno is due to deliver this relationship soon takes a darker turn reminding us once more just how well Bateman does suburban creepy while Cody pulls a switch-a-roo with our feelings for these characters the final pay off being delivered not in some stirring monologue but instead a simple note.
Perhaps it could be argued that the film does let Juno off attachment free when it comes to her baby as she is merely just the carrier and host to this child and any comment she really makes about the child is in how its effecting her physically than any kind of connection. As a result she give away her child and settles back into her life nine months prior to this incident now only with the knowledge that she has unconventionally helped someone out.
Juno in many ways marked the high watermark for the American Indie genre before the collapse of several of the major studios which soon saw the remaining studios move away from investing in such risky material which is something of a shame when we consider the wealth of material which came out of this period such as Little Miss Sunshine and The Squid and The Whale. At the same time while this film might not feel as hip on the rewatch as it did back on it’s original release a strong likeable performance from Ellen Page carries the film which at the least should be appreciated for it’s fierce originality as it sidesteps genre cliches to deliver it’s story in a voice which is very much its own.
A huge thanks to our final guest Elwood Jones for joining with this blogathon with a great review of Juno.
We head into me and Drew’s conclusion posts after this one. If you missed any entries, you can find the entire list HERE.