The Red Right Hand
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JUNO
A Comedy About Growing Up... And The Bumps Along The Way

Director
Jason Reitman

Starring
Ellen Page
Michael Cera
J.K. Simmons
Jennifer Garner
Jason Bateman

If I hear the phrase, "This year's Little Miss Sunshine" one more bloody time, I swear I'm going to hit someone. I think I'm the only critic in the world that didn't like this movie and the worst part is I was blitzed by PR people and my website fanbase all warbling, "You're going to love this film! It's exactly the kind of comedy you love!" To me, Juno is nothing more than an inflated comic along the lines of Ghost World and its film counterpart, it shouldn’t be entertaining in the conventional sense, it shouldn't receive mass praise, it should go underground and be loved by those whom it depicts. But I tried, I tried so bloody hard to like this film, I even laughed a handful of times but I just could not get past the fact that I was forcing myself to like another version of bloody Jeni, Juno.

I realise I'm about to shred this film but I'm still going to give it a relatively average score; to explain, this is because it's a rather entertaining piece, I just don't agree with the general feeling that it's a work of genius. The plot is incredibly simplistic, focusing on self-aware outcast, Juno [Page] and her pregnancy thanks to a brief sexual encounter with sort-of-boyfriend Paulie Bleaker [Cera]. What follows is a mish-mesh of encounters between the lead and the couple willing to adopt the baby, Mark [Jason Bateman] and Vanessa [Jennifer Garner]. To be honest, the script is written in such a way that it forces the audience to go through the somersault that the main character experiences and will therefore do well but it is by no means a good film.

For a film about relationships, love and pregnancy it does a good job of avoiding all three topics (the feelings of the baby's father and his family, the emotional attachment to the child, the ostracism of being pregnant in school, etc) in favour of 70's band references and nods to old gore flicks; but unlike Sideways the conversational topics don't parallel the characters or events at all. Excluding this, one of the main issues was the fact that the female characters (and I mean all of them) were so exceptionally well-written but this only highlighted the hollow 2D nature of the males. What we end up with is a screen littered with deep, unique female characters dancing around the three thinly drawn male character-types in their lives.

One comparison I can't help but make is with the other 'big pregnancy flick' of the year which was Knocked Up. I really liked this film, I thought it was extremely well written and laugh-out-loud funny but Juno lacked the charming scenarios of unexpectedly pregnant couples and all the seriousness of teenage pregnancies; it even glamorises it, to a certain extent, reassuring young girls everywhere that if you get pregnant there will always be some buttoned-down rich couple who can't have kids who will take the little chiseller off your hands. I would also like to quickly address the crappy, nauseating score; I have no issue with using an indie soundtrack in an indie film (take the phenomenal Garden State for example) but it seems so completely out of taste with the characters who spew on about The Stooges and Sonic Youth. It just feels like I'm watching another annoying car advert - do you remember when car adverts used to be cool? Now they're all Jose Gonzales wet dreams. If the movie was similar to High Fidelity and used music to accentuate the character and their situations, I would have no issue or complaint at all; it just feels indie-folk for indie-folk's sake.

I don't get it, growing up I was an alternateen kind of guy, I should have loved this movie; these are my people, right? Nope, instead I feel as betrayed as... I dunno, as a Southerner watching Deliverance. So why have I not completely written this film off? Well, it has a talented and varied cast, the whole film is directed rather well by Jason Reitman and at least the main cast look the ages that they are portraying. Other than that, I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about; it's bloody Waitress all over again.

Release Date:
8th February 2008

The Scene To Look Out For:
Random scene for you: shortly after notifying Bleaker of the pregnancy, Juno has to pair-up with him for a lab class (or some school crap). As they awkwardly stand side-by-side, the young couple opposite argue on the grounds that the girl is on her period and convinced that the bloke has been cheating on her. A small fight breaks out and ends abruptly. Juno shovels a few unfunny one-liners out, probably to relieve the tension. Why have I highlighted this segment? No reason at all, really.

...enjoy.

Notable Characters:
Two characters to scrutinise over today, the first is Bleaker. I don't think I like Michael Cera, I thought he acted rather well in Superbad but now I realise he's just playing himself; poor bastard is going to get typecast so quickly, he should have done what Paul Dano did and gone from Little Miss Sunshine onto the extraordinary There Will Be Blood. Secondly we have Jason Bateman's portrayal of Mark. He was so awkwardly drawn that his own crisis is portrayed as selfish because he's not ready to be a father and the fact that his possessions are locked away by his controlling Charlotte-esque wife seems to be perfectly reasonable and acceptable. I'm not saying the character didn't act immaturely but to write him so negatively seems so unnecessary. Oh, just to ensure everyone hates him, he makes random advances at Juno. The dirty bugger! He's a rockstar wannabe man-boy with no morals, what a shit! Let's stone the fucker!

Highlighted Quote:
"They sound awesome and all that's missing from their lives is your bastard"

In A Few Words:
"Enjoyable comedy but over hyped, over glorified and over praised"

Total Score:
6/10


Matthew Stogdon