04 January 2008

Juno-kay

Now that big award shows such as the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards are around the corner, a lot of hype about who-deserves-what is being tossed around and critics' opinions on films are becoming more publicized. Even loser bloggers are giving their two cents. Of the hype and the most united opinions that I've noticed, three things stick out: No Country is a top contender for Best Picture (agreed), Daniel Day Lewis's performance in There Will Be Blood is astonishing (agreed), and Juno is a terrific, heartfelt, witty movie with a fantastic screenplay that deserves something (huh?).

Okay. The first preconceptions and assumptions I had about Juno based on previews and such was that it would be a quirky, ignorable movie that would garner some kind of small recognition among a specific demographic - certain people who like Napoleon Dynamite and Judd Apatow and who listen to, uhm, I dunno, Belle and Sebastian or something. A demographic slightly less exclusive (or hip) than the Royal Tenenbaums lovers, but a little more particular than, say, your average Joe who thinks Pirates of the Caribbean is the best thing to ever happen to cinema. (Can you tell that this reviewer has one too many based judgments and assumptions about groups of people based on what they are into?)

Turns out I was way wrong. This movie is being adored through the roof by critics, viewers, old, young, hip, unhip, you-name-it. Naturally, I was intrigued to see what all the huff was about. Turns out my knee-jerk assumptions had some validity.

It's hard to watch a movie, especially for me, knowing that something is overly-praised, since it makes you have high expectations and it triggers that part of your (my) cynical mind to find its flaws before anything else. I tried to bury that as much as possible, allowing myself to have as much of an unbiased mind as possible. Even so, the first 10-20 minutes of Juno were unbearable. It was just filled with so much of that "indie quirk" that I felt like gagging. Oh my, she drinks Sunny D by the gallon. Oh my, she is non-chalant about a possible pregnancy. Oh my, she sure does have a smart mouth. I mean, really.

However, after a while I suppose I became adapted into the Juno universe and suspended my disbelief in the fact that teenagers just don't talk like that off a whim. It was after I did that, or it really happened naturally actually, that I could enjoy the movie. And it was fairly enjoyable. Ellen Page gives a very good performance despite the quaint screenplay and Michael Cera is probably the most lovable guy out there. Even the cross country team, at first a bit annoying, started to become pretty funny and acted as chapter markers.

The only negative quips I've read argued that the movie was way written a way that was "too cool for school" while trying to sneak in undeserved sentimentality. I disagree. I think it's the other way around. The movie itself is a sentimental movie, a movie with heart, with way too many one-liners, wise cracks, and unnatural wittiness. A lot of the lines felt too forced to convince me that Juno could actually exist or that someone would handle the situation the way she did. The core of the film, however, is one saturated in emotional situations: relationships breaking, dealing with pregnancy, issues of parenthood, failure and need for love, etc. It is when these situations are played out without stuffing as many Woody Allen remarks in it as possible that the movie works, which is mostly towards the end as resolutions and big decisions are made. The other negative quip I've heard is that it tries way too hard, and I would agree more with that than the other criticism. However, I don't think that its ambition destroys the film totally, it just takes away from it when it could certainly be better. I think Diablo Cody, as a first-time screenplay writer (awesome first gig), tried to stuff a little too much in and maybe has not developed a sense of control since she may not have known what was going to fly.

So is Juno overrated? Certainly. Is it worth seeing? I would say so. All in all, I would say that it's "okay." It is a nice little movie that could certainly be better, but not completely undeserving of all the praise its been garnering. Some scenes, like the beginning ones, make you want to roll your eyes until they unscrew from their sockets, while other ones, especially with Page and Cera together (or just Cera for that matter) you can't help but smile at.

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