Birkel is going to kill me, but ... I saw Juno and ... the scales are coming down on the "liking it" more than "loathing it" side.
I know I know! I too was annoyed by the loudly shouted message of "If you're a young smart person you HAVE TO LOVE this movie!" I think I was irritated before the film even opened because one day in December I was standing on a corner in Union Square and a whole bunch of dudes dressed up in the track suits from the movie jogged by in a silly marketing ploy. And then as the hype built and as annoying people of my acquaintance started using "wizard" in their daily vocabulary and referring to Paulie Bleeker as some sort of cult hero, I secretly determined that I Would Not Like this movie. After all, I've been burned in the past by Sundance glorybabies: both Thank You for Smoking and Little Miss Sunshine were big, fat, letdowns.
And for the first half hour of the movie, my skepticism was justified. The oh-so-carefully chosen music, the Converse-heavy credits, the hipster handlettering, the DIALOGUE: I rolled my eyes so many times that today they're sore.
But then the movie stopped being (quite so) self-conscious and became more serious...and as a result, more genuinely funny. By the end, not only had I laughed out loud several times, but I'd even wiped a tear or two away.
I think the praise lavished on Ellen Page is actually completely deserved. With another actress as Juno, I don't think this movie would have been a success (either commercially speaking or as a film in itself). She brought a lovability and a poignancy that absolutely grounded the movie in a way that it wouldn't have worked without. You know, she was really irritating and flippant in parts, but that was the point: her character is THREE-DIMENSIONAL. As a former three-dimensional teen girl myself, I can't tell you how much I appreciated seeing one for once portrayed on screen--and not only portrayed, but carrying the movie. If Juno's profitibality leads to more filmmakers exploring girls and women as deserving central film subjects and not just as eye candy, then I can handle guys in track suits cluttering up Union Square.
However. Where I do in the end object is to the idea that Juno is somehow a deeply insightful or profound or groundbreaking examination of teen pregnancy. No, it isn't. This movie would have been successful whether it was about Juno's summer job in the zoo or Juno in a beauty pageant or Juno writing a history paper. Juno herself is the reason it's memorable, and not her circumstances. In fact, it's in its treatment of pregnancy that I thought it showed its shallowness the most. It's no "cautionary whale" as some groups have hailed it; one reference to cocoa butter and one spring prom missed in no way provide some sort of lesson to teens contemplating protection-less sex. (WHY no protection, Juno? And why was this point never really discussed, Diablo?) I'll cut the movie some slack because I don't think it was setting out to teach a message, and nor should it have--it set out to tell one girl's story. It's the media I won't excuse; for in this age of Hollywood motherhood-fetishization and Spears-sisters fertility obsession, to greet Juno as somehow bravely illustrating the realities of teen pregnancy is irresponsible. At the close of the movie Juno cheerfully goes on with her life. For many girls, no such ending is possible.