Monday, January 28, 2008

Juno is So-So

What's that I hear? Cries of indignation echoing around the Internet? Do I actually dare criticize the latest "It" movie, especially after it just was nominated in the Best Film, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay categories for the Oscars?

Calm down, everybody. I didn't hate Juno. But I didn't love it, either, unlike seemingly everyone else in the world. I thought it was merely "OK." I could've loved it, but it was trying too hard. Let me break it down for you...

Here's what I didn't like:
1) The dialogue. "What?" you may be asking. I think I had extremely high expectations about the dialogue going into the movie, because I am insanely jealous of its writer, Diablo "Not her real name" Cody. If you are not aware (and if that's the case, I must pause and ask, "How can you NOT be aware... her story is EVERYWHERE!?!?!"), Brook Busey, er... Diablo Cody is an ex-stripper who wrote a blog and then a book about her time as a stripper, then wrote Juno, then became drastically over-hyped and omnipresent and landed an Entertainment Weekly column and an Oscar Nomination. So when I saw the movie after knowing all of that about her, I thought I would be blown away by insanely clever character conversations that have heretofore never been experienced. I did not find that to be the case. Instead, from the first line uttered, I was annoyed. I guesstimate that about 75% of the dialogue in the movie bugged the crap out of me. I can handle teenagers talking in mature-beyond-their-years ways, or I wouldn't have loved Dawson's Creek. But how Juno and her best friend talked (and even sometimes her father) I just couldn't swallow. It was like Diablo was trying to make every single sentence over-the-top and filled with weird phrases for different parts of the anatomy. It was too much.
2) Add to that a soundtrack that was also trying way too hard to be "hip." I think that whacked-out duo (Moldy Peaches) behind the main song, "Anyone Else But You," is the worst.
3) Similarly, Diablo had to make the title character constantly name-drop punk and indie bands, along with B-movie knowledge, to reaffirm and make sure you knew just how cool and unorthodox she was.

But many things saved the movie for me, and balanced out the annoyances listed above. The good aspects of Juno were:
1) The 25% of the dialogue that wasn't ridiculous. When the characters weren't making such a point of being supremely sarcastic, the movie was at its best.
2) Jennifer Garner as Vanessa. I never thought this day would come, but I actually loved Jennifer Garner in this movie (and I do not like her at all normally). She was absolutely perfect and totally believable in her role. I have now forgiven her for Electra.
3) Jason Bateman as the husband of Jennifer Garner. Who cares what his character's name was--he was smokin' in this movie. And so what if his character was totally creeptastic? I was digging him big-time, and I know I'm not the only one who felt this way (shout-out to Nerdy P). My crush on him from his Little House on the Prairie and Silver Spoons days is back in full effect! Dammit, now I need to go get all seasons of Arrested Development on Netflix.
4) The overall story. Despite the grating dialogue, despite the not-my-taste soundtrack, and despite my jealousy of Diablo, I have to admit that the story Juno tells is a good one. It even had a little twist that I didn't see coming. Surprisingly, I found myself crying non-stop for the last half-hour, which I very much did not expect. But DY was with me and she cried, too, so it's all good.

So I left the theater with a very mixed opinion of the movie. Loved the story, but wished that most of the characters' conversations had been different. Oh, and Michael Cera? It was like they just took his character from Superbad and plopped it in this movie. I seriously kept having to remind myself that McLovin and that Jonah Hill kid were not going to show up.

If you end up seeing this movie, I will tell you my two favorite parts, which were totally random and will not spoil anything for you:
1) The "stink-eye" girl, and
2) The photos on the wall when Juno goes up the staircase at Vanessa and Jason Bateman's house.

I will end by saying that I do think Ellen Page did an excellent job as the main character. I highly doubt she will win Best Actress, but it will be interesting to watch how her career goes after this. And if there was ever a year to be nominated for an Oscar and NOT win, this is the year... there probably won't even be a ceremony!

- e


Anonymous said...

ok, ok, now time for a review that is NOT tainted by jealousy... :)

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I do get your point about the overly sarcastic/mature dialogue a la Dawson's Creek, but I do not think it was as predominant as you mention. I think it was really just Juno, and maybe her friend a bit. (Though, yes, Juno is most of the movie) I really liked her parents. I think that the dialogue was really just the Juno character, and her friend (and ok, maybe the dad a TINY bit) fed off of this. In any case, the dialogue did not bother me - I found it entertaining. Juno, to me, was likable, unlike Joey Potter... (does that make me an SP?)

Soundtrack? agreed. Michael Cera's character? I'm with you. (though I still like him)

BUT... I must point out that if you are going to make the criticism of the whole indie/punk band mentions, that you MUST at least concede a little bit to the same criticism of one of your FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME... The Time Traveler's Wife. :)

And I don't want to start another "Closer" fight here :), but my point here is the same as the point I was trying to make to you 5 years ago... Closer is not a 'bad' movie, and I think it is unfair to say that Juno is 'so-so'. You cannot tell me that of ALL the movies ever made, that this one was just 'so-so'. The character development was great and the acting was great (though agreed, I don't think she'll win the oscar). There was the twist that neither of us saw coming, and the range of emotions experienced while watching the movie warrant it at least a 'so-so+'... even on the tough 'e' scale.

Anonymous said...

You'll enjoy Arrested Development. I can't believe you missed it the first time around! That show makes me tolerate Portia DiRossi, so, you know, it has to be pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I loooooove Juno. I laughed, I cried and totally loved Bleeker. Everyone deserves a Paulie Bleeker in the life.

Also loved the dad and step-mom

Anonymous said...

Sorry, you're wrong about Juno. It wasn't the greatest movie of all time, but it was cute and held my attention throughout and made me smile from scene to scene. I also didn't feel a lull in the storyline at any point.

It's funny that Jennifer Garner was a highlight of the movie for you. I guess I expected to have a bigger role than she did so I was underwhelmed by her performance. It wasn't BAD, just sort of an afterthought.